Imphal: Whatever slender hopes die-hard Bengal fans may have harboured about their team making it to the semi-finals of the 58th Santosh Trophy were dashed when Kerala won their last quarter final league match on Tuesday.
The defending champions were joined by Services as the first two semi-finalists.
The other two will be decided after last year’s runners-up Goa and local favourites Manipur meet Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively on Wednesday.
In the day’s action, Kerala crushed Assam 3-1 and Services despatched last year’s semi-finalists Railways 2-0 at the Khuman Lampak main stadium. The first semi-final — between Kerala and Services — will be held on November 1 at the same venue.
Apart from Assam and Railways, Tuesday’s results have knocked Bengal and Maharastra also out of the national football tournament.
In Tuesday’s first tie, Assam squandered a one-goal first-half lead and a semi-final berth.
They let in three goals after the break to let Kerala through to the last four.
Assam went into the lead in the 37th minute when striker Sanjiba Rongpi’s shot found the mark off midfielder Saran Sonar. Having gone into the lemon break leading, Assam’s defence chaired by Bebika, held fast till the 71st minute.
Then the referee awarded a penalty for a foul committed on Asif Saheer by Assam goalie Jitu Chhetri.
As K. Bineesh slotted in the equaliser, Assam’s defence and morale seemed to be demolished.
They let in another goal within six minutes, S. Ignatious scoring before substitute Abdul Nausad rounded off Assam’s misery in the dying moments.Kerala finished the group with six points while Bengal finished on three.
The Services-Railways match was a dull affair, the only bright spot being Preetam Bahadur’s brace, on either side of the break, which took the Services into the semi-finals.
Incidentally, Bahadur is the only player to have scored a hattrick in the meet.
The one-sided match saw Services stamp their domination giving Railways no chance of a look-in. Whatever few chances the Railways midfielders set up were all wasted.
Of the semi-finalists, Kerala, having demolished Bengal 3-2 in group A are right on top.In Group B, Services who held Maharastra 1-1 got through to the last four on a better goal difference despite Maharashtra having beaten Railways 1-0.Hosts Manipur have already secured full three points whipping Orissa 4-1 while Goa managed to scrape through beating Punjab-2-1.