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Lalampuia the hero for Bengal

P Lalampuia, instead, is now focussed on the game that made him a hero a few years back. The Mohun Bagan striker played saviour in Bengal's outing against Tamil Nadu, drew first blood against Manipur and, on Saturday, with elimination looming large, struck the winner against Punjab to help his team qualify for the Santosh Trophy semifinals, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Jun 07, 2009 01:45 IST
Abhishek Hore

He doesn't take life for granted, anymore. P Lalampuia, instead, is now focussed on the game that made him a hero a few years back. The Mohun Bagan striker played saviour in Bengal's outing against Tamil Nadu, drew first blood against Manipur and, on Saturday, with elimination looming large, struck the winner against Punjab to help his team qualify for the Santosh Trophy semifinals.

In a battle of the traditional heavyweights, the 29-time winners were on the verge of another early exit after Punjab's Lahlimthara Mahlima cancelled out Snehashish Chakroborty's 33rd-minute strike nine minutes after the breather. But Lalampuia rose to the occasion by slotting in Surojit Roy's through ball past a hapless Karanjit Singh, who led Punjab to their eighth title in the last edition in Srinagar.

With lead intact at the breather, Bengal became complacent after the change of ends and paid dearly when Mahlima converted Ravinder Singh's cross from the left.

Desperate to break their barren run in the tournament, Bengal then went on the offensive and, with Subha Kumar marshalling the midfield and making the wingers work overtime, Bengal got back their momentum. Bengal's renewed vigour saw Punjab coach Jagir Singh strengthening the backline, little realising that he was reducing his team's attacking options.

Tamil Nadu advance

In search of their maiden title, Tamil Nadu, riding on P Muthu's hattrick, blanked Manipur 3-1 to qualify for the semifinals. Bolstered by the return of Mohanraj from suspension, the hosts played some aggressive football throughout, not allowing Manipur to initiate a fight-back. Bijen Singh's 55th-minute pile driver from 30 yards gave Manipur a glimmer of hope, but they could not reduce the margin of defeat further that would have helped them qualify ahead of TN on better goal-difference.

Manipur’s Thomas Singh errored inside the box.

After converting the penalty, Muthu doubled the lead a few minutes later when he intercepted Thomas' back-pass before going on to beat the goalkeeper.

Not content with two, Muthu scored the hattrick a minute later when he chipped the ball over Manipuri custodian Lokeshwar Singh.

Scores: Bengal 2 (Snehashish 33, Lalampuia 84) Punjab 1 (Mahlima 54); Tamil Nadu 3 (Muthu 28, 34, 35) Manipur 1 (Bijen Singh 55)