Goa, Tamil Nadu snatch
Strong contenders Goa began their campaign in the National Football Championship, for the Santosh Trophy, with a fluent 2-1 victory over Punjab in their Group C quarter-final league match at the Khuman Lampak stadium, in Imphal, on Monday.
In another match, in Group D, Tamil Nadu beat Orissa by a similar margin.
Goa next meet Karnataka, on October 30, to decide the group champion, which advances to the last four stage, while Tamil Nadu take on Manipur the same day.
Both Karnataka and Manipur had won their opening quarter-final league matches.
All three goals in the Goa-Punjab match were scored in the first-half. While Covan Lawrence restored parity in the 42nd minute to a 17th minute goal by Sher Singh, Alvito D'Cunha, who was shown the red card in the second-half, made it 2-1 for the Goans, runners-up last year, a minute before the lemon break.
The second half was almost a one-sided affair as Goa, despite having a man short, called the shots with some excellent passing.
Goa were reduced to ten men when D'Cunha was given marching orders in the 67th minute after an altercation with referee A. Arjunan of Services. The former India player abused the referee so loud that it was even audible in the stands.
Lawrence was declared the man-of-the-match.
In the Orissa-Tamil Nadu match too, it was the losers who took the lead in the 19th minute, through Saroj Kanta Pattnaik. But two quick goals by P Muthu midway through the first-half put Orissa out of the reckoning.
Muthu, who was later named man-of-the-match, restored parity in the 24th minute and then scored from a penalty four minutes later to clinch the issue for Tamil Nadu.
Punjab held early ascendancy in their match against Goa and deservedly forged ahead when Sher Singh, who had minutes earlier hit the post, found the target with a right-footed volley that beat Goa custodian Kalyan Chaubey. Sher Singh intercepted a through ball from Jaswant Singh, dodged past defender Lawrence and found the net.
It could have been 2-0 for Punjab but Chaubey did well to thwart a Parminder Singh shot in the 25th minute.
However, Goa gradually settled down and took control of the proceedings. They restored parity in the 42nd minute when Lawrence scored following a corner kick by D'Cunha. He was quick to capitalise on a lapse by a Punjab defender and fire home a stiff shot past Punjab keeper Kameshwar Singh, who was fielded ahead of senior custodian Virender Singh.
Two minutes later Goa made the scoreline 2-1, when D'Cunha, who plays for East Bengal, ran through the Punjab defence solo, beat two defenders, and despatched a stiff right footer.
Complete Coverage: Santosh Trophy 2002