Punjab enter semis after 7-goal thriller

Anil Datt

Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 17

Hosts Punjab quelled a strong challenge from Karnataka before coming out triumphant 4-3 to book a berth in the semifinals of the 73rd National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.

After Maharashtra’s win earlier today, Punjab had been pushed to third place. The hosts needed a win to qualify for the knockouts as Karnataka and Maharashtra were tied on seven points at the top of the table while Punjab had six points.

Punjab played like a well-knit unit to tame Karnataka and displace them from the top of the table to the second spot. With 9 points from four matches, Punjab ended on top of Group B. Despite the loss, Karnataka also made it to the semifinals after finishing above Maharashtra due to a better goal-difference. Services and Goa had qualified from Group A. 

In the semifinals, to be held on Friday, Services will take on Karnataka, while Punjab will clash with Goa.

Falling behind

Nagesh Selva put Karnataka into the lead in the 13th minute. However, three minutes later, Punjab scored the equaliser through Sukhpreet Singh. Punjab went ahead in the 31st minute when Vikrant Singh found the target.

Karnataka restored parity in the 33rd minute through John Peter, but 10 minutes later, Punjab again took the lead when Vikrant struck his second.

In the 60th minute, Karnataka levelled the scores through M Nikhil Raj. Amandeep Singh gave Punjab the lead for the third time in the 73rd minute and this time the hosts managed to keep Karnataka at bay.

Earlier, Maharashtra thrashed Sikkim 5-0 after leading by three goals at halftime.

Aman Gaikwad opened the account in the 15th minute, while Vinod Kumar doubled the lead in the 26th minute. Just before the interval, Leander Dharmai made it 3-0.

In the second half, Arif Shaikh added two goals in quick succession (52nd and 54th minutes) to complete the rout against a hapless Sikkim side.

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