Manipur, Karnataka snatch
Two first half goals, by Mahendra Mani and S Sunil, guided Karnataka to a 2-0 victory over strong contenders Punjab in their first quarter-final league match in Group 'C', in the 58th National Football Championship, for the L G Santosh Trophy, at the Khuman Lampak stadium in Imphal on Saturday.
In another quarter-final league match, in Group B, Manipur easily beat Orissa 4-1.
Bijen Singh scored twice for the hosts, in the 10th and 85th minutes, and L Tiken and Tomba Singh netted once each, in the 38th and 60th minutes. The only goal for Orissa was scored by substitute Mahesh Rauda.
Bijen Singh of Dempo put Manipur ahead in the tenth minute when he got a pass from L. Tiken. The goal enabled Bijen go level with Bengal's Deependu Biswas in goal tally. The latter was the top scorer so far with eight goals. Bijen then overtook Biswas with his second goal later, taking his individual tally to nine.
Orissa restored parity when a floater from substitute Rauda went over Manipur keeper Noren Singh's head in the 36th minute.
Two minutes later, Manipur regained the lead with a superb goal from L. Tiken.
After the breather W. Tomba Singh and Bijen scored to put the issue safe.
Bijen was adjudged the man-of-the-match.
Though Punjab had as many as six former internationals, Karnataka dominated the show and deservedly won.
Karnataka forged ahead in the 22nd minute when left winger Mani placed the ball into the net. Striker Sunil buttressed the lead in the 30th minute.
Karnataka striker S K Dayananda, who schemed most of their attacks, was adjudjed man-of-the-match.
Karnataka started like a well-oiled machine and forced Punjab on the defensive. But a powerful attempt by Dayanand was valiantly saved by former India goalkeeper Virender Singh in the 15th minute. Karnataka opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, when Mahendra Mani beat Virender on his right after collecting a cross off Dayananda. The goal was also the first to be conceded by Punjab.
Stung by the reverse, Punjab went all out and almost earned an equaliser five minutes later, but they were unlucky as a stiff shot by Hari Sharma hit the post.
Karnataka consolidated their lead in the 30th minute. This time right winger Sunil found the target after capitalising on a pass from the left flank and booting home from a melee.
Mani could have made it 3-0 but he missed the target after the Punjab keeper got floored while preventing a grounder from Sunil.
Karnataka custodian Mark Mascarenhas was also tested by Punjab midfielder Jaswant Singh, but the former did well to fist out a powerfull left-footer.
Karnataka now meet runners-up Goa in the second match of this group on October 30 while Punjab take on Goa on October 28.
Complete Coverage: Santosh Trophy 2002