Three second-half goals, including a brace from substitute Tarun Slathia, gave Punjab their first win of the tournament.
Rajasthan has got off to a brilliant start. Amit Godara’s attempt from outside the box in the second minute was saved by a diving Harpreet Singh. The corner led to another attempt from outside the box, this time from youngster Sahil Khan, but the keeper thwarted the attempt again.
Those two quick fire attempts woke up the Punjab players who then dominated the rest of the first half.
Her first chance came from Manvir Singh, who drifted in from the left. A choppy pass was expertly controlled by the winger but Rajasthan’s Gajraj Singh’s brave keeper kept him goalless.
Both Punjab wingers kept interfering from the flanks, making it difficult for the Rajasthan players to mark them.
Amarpreet Singh intervened from the right and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot just outside the box. Gajraj Singh stopped dead in his tracks and was relieved when the ball went just wide.
As Rajasthan fell deeper and deeper, it became difficult for Punjab to play the killer through the ball. So the players in yellow resorted to shots from deep.
Jaginder Singh’s raspy drive was parried to safety by a full Gajraj. The ball fell right in front of him, making the goalie embarrassed to save.
Rohit Sheikh then had the ball in the net after a clean build-up, but the referee ruled it offside.
Punjab’s sustained pressure finally paid off in the 37th minute. A cross from the right was headed down by Manvir Singh and a left-footed shot by Amarpreet Singh finally defeated Gajraj and Punjab deservedly went into half-time.
The second half was a one-way traffic as the Punjab players had numerous chances to extend their lead. The insurance goal came from a penalty in the 63rd minute. Manvir Singh intervened from the left and was tripped up by Trilok Lohar in the penalty area. Skipper Parmjit Singh stepped forward and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way to give Punjab a 2-0 lead.
The goal seemed to nullify the little resistance from the Rajasthan players. Then came in as a substitute, Slathia, and made an immediate impression. He grabbed a high ball, keeping the defender at bay and sweeping the ball past Gajraj with his left foot to triple the advantage.
The Punjab players shot at will and Gajraj had to keep coming to Rajasthan’s rescue. Substitute striker Slathia scored the fourth and final goal once again. Misunderstandings in the box within the Rajasthan camp gave him the chance to ship the gift and he did so emphatically.
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