| NABI: Setting it up for Aind to score
Hyderabad: Bengal maintained their supremacy in soccer, with both their boys and girls clinching the final berth in the National Games on Thursday.
Bengal boys rode a Supratik Aind strike to edge past Tamil Nadu 1-0 and set up a summit clash with holders Punjab who blanked Services 4-0 in the other semi-final clash. The eves, on the other hand, prevailed over Orissa 3-1 and booked a date with defending champions Manipur in the title-round.
Dominating for most part of the semi-final outing at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Supratik struck the winner in the 76th minute following a combined move from the left. Striker Rahim Nabiís volley rebounded off Tamil Nadu custodian Douglas Ponrajís hands and then the latterís body came in the way of Pradip Induís second attempt towards the goal.
An unmarked Supratik, who replaced Amar Pyne in the 65th minute, then put the ball in from top of the six-yard box to ensure Bengalís passage to the final after the sideís consecutive ouster from the group stages in the Gamesí two previous editions in Imphal and Punjab.
Bengal, however, got a couple of chances in the first half with skipper Dipendu Biswas playing pivotal roles on both occasions. In the 16th minute, Dipendu received a loose ball and let go a powerful shot but Ponraj dived to his right to avert the danger. Towards the close of the first half, the Mohammedan Sporting striker again unleashed a rasping low long-ranger which was fisted away by Ponraj.
3 goals in 5 minutes
Punjab made good use of the flanks to open up a 3-0 lead at the breather before adding one more in the second session to put the issue beyond Services. Guravinder Pal Singh and Surjit Singh each scored a brace for Punjab as the defending champions pulverised Services with late first half charges slamming in three goals within a space of five minutes.
Guravinder found the target in the 36th minute, before Surjit headed in twice in the 39th and 41st minutes following floaters from the right. Guravinder, who spearheaded the Punjab moves with his quick manoeuvres, completed the Servicesí misery with a fine goal in the 79th minute.
However, the semi-final encounter between Bengal and Orissa eves saw Pinky Bompal Magar put the latter ahead. Stung by the reversal, Bengal put up a spirited fightback and turned the table on their rivals in the second half. Rinku Ghosh scored a brace and Shanta Dhara another as Bengal ensured the final become a repeat of the Imphal Games. Manipur beat Andhra Pradesh 4-0 in the other semi-final.
Bengal girls kept their reputation intact, moving into the pre-quarters with fluent wins in the womenís table tennis. While Poulomi Ghatak gave no breathing space to local favourite Naganalini in carving out a 11-4, 12-10, 11-1, 11-2 win, Mouma Das notched up a facile 11-8, 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 win over Assamís Sanjukta Gogoi in the singles second round matches. Kasturi Chakraborty coasted to a 11-1, 11-6, 11-7 11-3 win over Delhiís V. Malini, while Sushmita Roy rode overcame Delhiís FA Bandhan Bora 11-6, 11-7, 11-1 11-7.
In womenís tennis, Sania Mirza, representing Andhra Pradesh, snuffed out a feeble challenge from Bengalís Reedhina Parekh to reach the semi-finals.
In menís waterpolo, Bengal were beaten by defending champions Kerala 2-6 in the semi-finals. For Kerala, Gopakumar notched up 3 goals while Bengalís Biswajit Das also accounted for 3 goals.