Buoyed by three quick goals in the first half and one in the fag end of the second, Punjab defeated Bengal 4-3 to win the Group D quarterfinal match of 67th Santosh Trophy at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here on Monday. For the winners, Prem Kumar struck a brace in the second half.
In the first half, Punjab dictated the terms and neatly pursued their long ball game, taking full advantage of the Bengal defenders’ moderate height. Punjab drew the first blood through Sajandeep Singh’s left footer from outside the box in the 14th minute. Seven minutes later, Prem Kumar increased the lead to 2-0, after he converted a penalty awarded for a foul on Bali Gagandeep. In the first half injury time, Afftabvir Singh swelled the lead. He essayed a long curling shot to the goal when the keeper was standing at the tip of the box. After the break, Bengal changed its formation and lined up two more players up front, in a frantic effort to cut down the lead. Seventeen minutes later, Bengal had a golden chance to cushion the lead when they were handed over a penalty. But Nabin Hela’s spot kick was saved by the goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, Jagannath Sana connected a cross from Nabin and reduced the margin 1-3. In the 76th minute, former International Dipendu Biswas scored from a swerving shot from the right to make it 2-3. Bengal, meanwhile, had stepped up offensive, sensing that a equaliser was around. But to their dismay, Prem Kumar scored from a high ball. This goal too was born out of a slack defence as well as poor goalkeeping. In the 43rd minute, Nabin Hela scored from Jagannath Sana’s cross but that was too late.
KARNATAKA, SERVICES, RAILWAYS POST WIN
Manipur became the first casualty in the Group D as they were blanked 1-3 by Karnataka in the quarterfinal match. In other matches, former champions Railways came back from a goal down to beat Odisha 2-1 in a Group A fixture, while holders Services decimated a hapless Madhya Pradesh 6-0 in a Group A encounter.