Shillong, Feb 2: Punjab will face West Bengal in the second semifinal of the Hero Junior National Football Championship for the Dr BC Roy Trophy after they qualified at the top of Group B and D respectively here today.
In the morning Punjab marched into the semifinals with a 2-0 victory over Jharkhand. Goal machine Seilenthang Lotjem (34′) and Abhishek Rattu (51′) were the scorers and this was Lotjem’s sixth goal of the competition. Punjab are also the only team to have won all three group stage matches across any of the four groups and have yet to concede a goal to boot.
The other Group B match witnessed Kerala come from behind to inflict a 3-1 defeat on Manipur. Mynam Arif Hussain (11′) put Manipur into the lead with their first goal of the competition but Kerala fought back with goals from Mohammed Aimen (44′), Jishnu P (61′) and Hafis PA (89′) and they finished second in the group, with Jharkhand third and Manipur fourth.
Group D was decided in the afternoon with West Bengal toppling leaders Karnataka to take first place. Prior to today West Bengal had played out two goalless draws and they were finally able to score after 240 minutes on the pitch via two strikes by Sani Basu (62′, 76′).
The other game saw Chhattisgarh and Jammu & Kashmir play out a 1-1 draw. Both goals came in the first 10 minutes with Amit Nag (3′) putting Chhattisgarh into the lead before Farhan Nazir Sheikh (8′) equalised with J&K’s first goal of the competition following a misjudgement of the bounce by the opposition goalkeeper.
Tomorrow will see the first semifinal between Mizoram (from Group A) and hosts Meghalaya (Group C) at the JN Stadium at 1PM. Both North East teams have taken similar routes to the last-four stage by starting their campaigns with goalless draws (Mizoram against Goa and Meghalaya against Haryana) before winning their next two fixtures. Meghalaya have also yet to concede a goal, while Delhi put one past Mizoram.
Wadajied Kynsai Ryngkhlem will be Meghalaya’s danger man as he has scored five goals so far. On the other side, Mizoram romped to a 5-0 win over Uttar Pradesh in their last group outing on the back of a Lalrintluanga hat-trick and he will look to carry on that form against the hosts.
Semifinal 1 – Mizoram vs Meghalaya, 1PM, JN Stadium
(Meghalaya Football Association photo. West Bengal celebrate their second goal)