THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Clinical Punjab prove too strong for Uttar Pradesh

Punjab State Team

Punjab State Team

A clinical Punjab booked a berth in the Final Round of the Santosh Trophy when they routed Uttar Pradesh 4-0 in their Group B North Zone qualifier at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Tuesday.

After Gurpreet Singh had put Punjab in the lead in the 38th minute, Amardip Singh, Vijay Kumar and Ranjit Singh scored one each for the winners in the second half. The result helped Punjab finish with nine points at the top of Group B North Zone qualifiers. In their earlier matches, Punjab had beaten Himachal Pradesh 2-1 and had accounted for Jammu & Kashmir by a solitary goal.

Punjab dominated proceedings right from the kick-off. Almost immediately after start, Uttar Pradesh goalkeeper Virendra Yadav fumbled a routine gathering off Punjab midfielder Gurtej Singh’s long shot. But even as the ball was crossing the goalline, much to relief of his bench, Yadav recovered in time.

The eight-time champions preferred to play it among themselves but with Uttar Pradesh defending with almost ten men, the jungle of legs didn’t allow Punjab that much space to penetrate.

In the 28th minute, Harpreet Singh’s dummy run during a free-kick had the Uttar Pradesh defence guessing. But Harpreet failed to finish it – his left footer curling away into the gallery.

Punjab eventually surged into the lead in the 38th minute – Uttar Pradesh’s central defender Mukesh Singh in an effort to keep off Gurpreet Singh’s shot deflected it into his own net.

By then, Gurtej, the former Pailan Arrows Midfielder was playing a composed game in the middle. A minute after the goal, his powerful shot, all addressed into the net was acrobatically tipped over by Virendra. The resultant corner-kick, however, went waste.

Substitute Amardip Singh muffed the easiest opportunity for Punjab at the stroke of interval. He followed it up inside the rival box but with only Virendra to beat, he lobbed it over.

Post resumption, enjoying a one-goal cushion and knowing that even a draw would see them through to the Final Round, Punjab slowed it down at times. They stretched it to the flanks and there was always support for the other. Uttar Pradesh chased.

Punjab’s second goal came in the 73rd minute. Amardip cut inside the Uttar Pradesh box and placed his right-footer past a diving Virendra.

The third-goal came immediately after. This time, substitute Vijay Kumar tapped in the rebound after Virendra had palmed Ranjit Singh’s rasper.

Ranjit went on to complete the rout in the 84th minute.

The Final Round of the Santosh Trophy will kick-off in Siliguri later this month. The ten teams who have qualified would be clubbed into two groups where they would be playing each other. The top-two from each group would proceed to the semifinals.

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)