Bengal make Santosh Trophy semis with late goal

June 6th, 2009 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 6 (IANS) Bengal showcased their soccer pedigree by ousting defending champions Punjab 2-1 here Saturday night to join hosts Tamil Nadu in the semi-finals of the 63rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy.
Requiring an outright win to qualify, Bengal were yet again served well by Pachau Lalam Puia, the man who earned them a crucial draw with Tamil Nadu with an injury time equalsier, and Saturday he struck the match-winner in the 84th minute.

Earlier, Snehashish Chakraborty had put Bengal ahead in the 33rd minute before Punjab, who needed only a draw to progress to the knockout stage, equalised in the 54th minute through Lahlimthara Mahlima.

The result took Bengal’s tally to five points, while Tamil Nadu, who had beaten Manipur 3-1 earlier, finished on four. Manipur also had four points but ended up third behind the hosts on the basis of their goal difference. Punjab, with two defeats and a win against Manipur came away with just three points.

Bengal, in quest of their 30th title, the last being in 1999, nearly failed to make the grade Saturday night and never quite looked like securing the win they needed.

Bengal’s forwardline, as per their own coach’s admission, has been a cause for concern, but they hit the right buttons to wrap up the match.

Chakraborty delivered when he neatly chipped over goalkeeper Karanjit Singh after receiving a return pass from Subho Kumar and Bengal hung on grimly to the slender lead while repeatedly failing to finish off some promising moves.

On their part, Punjab kept their cool despite the reverse, although they missed striker Balwant Singh who sat out the game serving a one-match suspension following two yellow card bookings in the previous two games.

Looking far from impressive, Punjab still managed to enjoy periods of dominance and the equaliser from a Ravinder Singh-Rakesh Masih move put them back in the hunt.

But it was not long before Bengal gradually eased their way back into the match with a series of threatening moves down the flanks while the Punjab’s deep defence tended to panic.

Even as a draw loomed large, Puia delivered the knockout punch by blasting Surojit Roy’s pass into the back of the net to give Bengal a 2-1 advantage that they nursed to the finish.

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