Defending champions Goa turned on the heat against previous edition semi-finalists Services, beating them 4-0 in their last Group A quarter-final league encounter.
Goa finished top of the group with nine points from three matches, while Punjab were second with six after having defeated Karnataka 5-1 in the day’s first match here at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. Wednesday’s Group B final round matches will decide Goa and Punjab’s opponents in Friday’s semi-finals.
It was a clinical performance dished out by Goa and though Services were on the offensive on some occasions, timely strikes by the defending champions kept them at bay.
Goa took an early lead through Milagres Gonsalves who latched on to Adil Khan’s pass from the middle and easily slotted it past Services custodian Binu Purushothaman. Ten minutes later, the Salgaocar recruit doubled the lead this time off an audacious 25-yard pile-driver.
Services tried stitching some aggressive moves but the experienced central defence of Rowilson Rodrigues and old horse Covan Lawrence did well to bottle up strikers Seikhohau Tuboi and S. Raleng. Rodrigues and Lawrence pulled off a goaline save each in the first half, off Tuboi and Raleng respectively.
Goa snuffed out any chance of any comeback from Services in the second-half when they stretched the lead in the 51st minute. Fulganco Cardozo set up Khan with a neat cross from the left, which the former Sporting Clube de Goa striker duly volleyed in.
Substitute Clifton Gonsalves rounded off the score when he slalomed past two defenders and smashed home a grounder from the top of the box.
Earlier, Punjab overcame a small scare to hammer Karnataka 5-1 in their last Group A encounter. Going into the breather trailing 1-2, Karnataka would have fancied their chances of playing spoilsport but Punjab quickly regrouped to extend lead through Parveen Kumar’s 65th minute strike to make it 3-1.
Gurpreet Singh’s quick-fire brace had given Punjab a commanding headstart but veteran R.C. Prakash pulled one back just three minutes to the breather.
But after Parveen made it 3-1, Punjab were looking to increase their goal difference in case Goa lost to Services in the ensuing match.
In the 87th minute, Rohit Kumar surged through a Karnataka defence that seemed paralysed and nodded in Amandeep Singh’s corner-kick. Parveen scored his second goal in added time with a curling free-kick from the right to seal the semifinal berth for Punjab.