76th Santosh Trophy Group VIManipur qualify for final round despite 0-1 loss against Punjab in top of table clash

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Jan 31 : Hosts Manipur went down by a slender 0-1 margin against Punjab in the Group VI top of the table clash in the 76th Santosh Trophy this afternoon at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium.
The result lifted Punjab to top of the group on 13 points from four wins and a draw while Manipur finished runners up on 12 points from four wins in 5 matches.
Despite the loss, Manipur qualified for the final round which will see 12 teams clubbed into two groups compete in round robin league for four semi-final berths.
The lone goal which settled the game came up in the 12th minute with Parmjit Singh converting a penalty earned by midfielder Sandeep Singh.
It was a clumsy foul deep down the left flank by Maibam Deny as soon as Sandeep stepped into the penalty box. Parmjit who stood up to take the penalty summed up well by dispatching the ball straight from the spot while sending Manipur custodian Ngamsanglena Haokip to his right.
Manipur put up a brave fight to make their way back into the game with a barrage of attempts and shots with Subash Singam leading at the front. With Manipur pushing for the equaliser, four of the Punjab players picked up yellow cards in the opening half itself turning the game into a tense contest.
Manipur came close to drawing level on numerous occasions but lack of finishing touch and resolute defending performances from Punjab players poured cold water on their efforts.
Earlier in the day at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium, Chandigarh thrashed Himachal Pradesh 5-0 to finish third in the Group table.
Gurtegbir Singh took centre stage with a brace in the second half (47', 54') after Kartik Choudhary (13') and Gaurav Negi (35') gave Chandigarh a 2-0 first half lead. Naorem Govindash then fired home the penultimate goal in the 61st minute.
In another morning clash at ESU ground, Lakshadweep edged past Jharkhand 4-2.
Lakshadweep had most of the possession and scoring chances in the opening period and eventually raced to a 3-0 lead with Md Thafruque converting a penalty in the 10th minute before Nasarulla (12') and Md Shareef P (32') took their turns.
After the break, Jharkhand pulled back two goals via Bikram Sankho Kisku (51') and Rohan Kacchap (68') to claw back into the game but Naseeb AC scored in the 78th minute to double the advantage and lead Lakshadweep to a 4-2 lead.
In the final round beginning from February 10 in Bhubaneswar, Manipur are drawn in Group B alongside heavyweights West Bengal, Services, Railways, Meghalaya and Delhi.