TN, Bengal seal semifinal slots

Muthu hat-trick spurs hosts; holders Punjab bite the dust

Later, Bengal stormed into the semifinal stage after ousting defending champions Punjab 2-1 in another Group A match.

For Manipur, the lone scorer was Mutum Bijen Singh, who netted one in the 55th minute with a long-range shot.

Although Manipur and Tamil Nadu ended the group stage tied on four points, a better goal average helped the hosts advance to the last-four stage.

Muthu’s first goal came in the 28th minute through a spot kick when Manipur’s Thomas Singh handled the ball preventing Riju from taking a shot at the goal.

In the space of two minutes, Muthu slotted in a brace of goals. In the 34th minute, Muthu intercepted Thomas Singh’s back pass and dragged goalkeeper Lokeshwar Singh out before slotting one in.

In the next minute, Muthu’s wriggled out of an off-side trap after intercepting a diagonal pass from Mohan Raj.

Punjab ousted

Bengal finished on top of the table with five points (one win and two draws). After missing couple of chances Bengal shot into the lead in the 33rd minute when play maker Snehashish Chakraborty scored off a combined move. Punjab found parity in the 54th minute through P C Lahlimthara Mahlima. Bengal’s winning goal came in the 84th minute when Lalam Puia scored a stunner.

Snehashish once again excelled with his ball control and put Subho Kumar in front and moved up to receive the ball back  and chipped the ball over the on-rushing goal keeper Karanjit Singh.

Punjab defenders wilted under pressure as the marauding Bengal forwards continued to trouble them with moves from the flanks and the centre.

However, after crossing over Punjab looked a totally transformed side as they played like a team and within nine minutes they found the equaliser when Ravinder Singh’s cross from the left was headed forward by Rakesh Masihto Mahlima, who slammed the ball in to the netting from close range.

Surojit Roy trapped a Tariq Ahammed through ball neatly despite being challenged by two defenders and passed inside the box where Puia slammed that home for the match-winner.

Sunday's fixtures: Group B: Goa vs Maharashtra (4.00 pm), Karnataka vs Services (6.30 pm).

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