Santosh Trophy: Manipur shock Punjab in quarterfinal league

June 2nd, 2009 - 9:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 2 (IANS) Manipur pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win against defending champions Punjab in the opening Group A quarter-final league match of the 63rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy at the Nehru Stadium, here Tuesday.
2003 champions Manipur dominated much of the game and were helped along by an own goal by Sarabjeet Singh in the 30th after Balwant Singh had put Punjab in the lead with a 27th minute header against the run of play. Manipur then struck the match-winner past the 48th when Singam Subash Singh found the net.

Manipur dictated the terms while Punjab, playing their first game in the tournament, appearing rather out of sorts while struggling to come to terms with the oppressive heat and humidity.

Manipur’s persistence eventually made the difference as they repeatedly harried the Punjab defence with some nip and tuck football, always scurrying through the gaps.

In contrast, Punjab hardly looked a champion side and though they had a few moments of their own, never did make an impact that was expected of them.

Barring the opening minute when Balwant tested Manipur custodian Basant Singh, it was Manipur all the way in the first-half with Punjab defence under ceaseless pressure.

However, so intent was Manipur’s attack that they left the back open and Punjab struck from a quick counter-attack with Balwant nodding home.

Manipur hit back almost immediately though with some luck as Yumnam Raju Mangang’s 35-yard shot rocketed into the net off defender Sarabjeet Singh’s foot for the equaliser.

After the break, Manipur virtually sealed the issue when Singam Subash Singh punished Punjab for goalkeeper Karanjit Singh’s lapse by scoring off a poor block. Khenthang Paite cut through and essayed a shot that Karanjit parried and Subash Singh made no mistake with the rebound.

It was an excellent team work by Manipur for whom Thoudam Joychandra Singh, Mutum Bijen Singh and Reisangmi Vasum stood out with their darting runs and clever scheming.

Vasum, who plays for Churchill Brothers, messed up a couple of scoring chances, notably in the 70th minute when he shot wide with goalkeeper Karanjit Singh out of position.

In desperation, Punjab inducted some fresh legs in the final 20 minutes with Amandeep Batra replacing Boy Singh and Baldeep Singh (Jr) making way for Randeep Singh, but to no avail.

Punjab all but scored the equaliser, but Rohit Kumar’s header was well gathered by an alert Basant Singh. About two minutes from the end, Balwant headed over from within handshaking distance and that was as close Punjab came to saving the game.

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