Punjab continued their domineering run in the domestic football tournament by beating Goa 2-1 at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Friday. After a gritty display by both the sides at either end of the half, it was eventually Harjinder Singh’s goal that took his side to the final.
Being the home side, Punjab started the crucial match all guns blazing and were exploiting the flanks very aggressively through wingers Sunny and Jaspreet Singh, whose hard work was unparalleled throughout the ninety minutes.
However, while all the supply was solely aimed at the centre forward Vikrant Singh, standing up top, it was Jaspreet who gave the hosts the lead in the 12th minute, when he lost his marker inside the box and headed in the ball from close range.
Goa had started as the slower side and had to show urgency soon and they did that through striker Lallawmpuia, who dropped deep owing to lack of supply and improve the link-up play to give Goa more possession. It soon paid dividends as Goa earned a free-kick from a dangerous position outside the box but the 19-year-old striker couldn’t keep his ball down as the first-half came to an end.
The visitors had already got the taste of blood and were expected to come harder in the second half and they did exactly that. They were becoming difficult to handle and Punjab had to deploy four midfielders to block the visitors a free passage through the middle of the park. The flanks remain the same though with Jaspreet and Sunny playing wide and Vikrant playing the target man.
However, it was a defensive approach and Punjab could only hold Goa for so long before they finally got a breakthrough one minute before the regulation time ended through Joachim Abranches, whose shot luckily passed a number of legs before goalkeeper Satbir Singh parried it away. However, it fell straight to substitute Ronaldo Oliveira for an easy tap in.
However, Punjab took advantage of Goa’s clumsiness after levelling things and got their lead back in the dying minutes when Mohd. Asif’s indirect free-kick saw Harjinder heading it in to take his side to the final. Punjab would be facing Services in the final, who defeated Karnataka on penalties after their match ended 1-1.
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