Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
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By S.R. Suryanarayan
Tamil Nadu 15 Rajasthan 0
Punjab's Sharanjit Kaur went through this experience on Friday when her intended cross from far ended up becoming a beautiful lobbed goal and instantly sounded the death knell for Haryana.
That fifth goal undid the two teams' `calculation' to troop out as good neighbours by jointly qualifying for the next phase of the senior National women's football championship. The key to Haryana's qualification was that it should not lose by more than a 2-0 margin. Anything more than that would pave the way for Kerala and that was what Sharanjit unwittingly did in the 76th minute.
Instead of the usual show of joy for scoring a goal, many of her colleagues exhibited dismay and poor Sharanjit was left wondering how a casual effort from far side of the box could turn so accurate!
Curious was the Punjab Coach Vijay Kumar's reaction for he thought Haryana was still `in' despite the fifth goal. "Wasn't it the number of goals scored by the teams which was the parameter rather than `goal difference' to break a tie", was his query, clearly getting his knowledge of the rules mixed up.
Earlier Tamil Nadu stormed into the quarterfinals with another grandstand show as Rajasthan could hardly raise a resistance against the free moving and methodical efficiency of the host.
It was J. Shalini's turn to do the star act as she notched up six goals including a hat-trick. S. Vasanthi (four), C. Sri Brinda (two), S. Poonkodi, U. Thamimunnisa and S. Susila were the other scorers.
While Tamil Nadu's qualification from Group D was never in doubt, the outcome confirmed U.P.'s berth for the next round.
The interest in the other match was whether Assam or Maharashtra would top Group B as both had gained qualification. It was a keen contest where Assam's speed and ability to make deep forays stood out against the slightly lethargic opponent.
Even though the experienced Laura Estibeiro played a stellar role for Maharashtra, in trying to keep the contest on level terms with her long clearances and mobility, Assam had in Anjana Pegu who needed only an inch to seize a mile.
Anjana was the architect of Assam's fine show. It was her wily cross from the far side, six minutes into the second session, that provided the opportunity for substitute Anjana Saikia to get the breakthrough with a shot to the roof of the net.
In the 64th minute, Anjana left defender Pranali Dahiwale and goal-keeper Niyati Lokur helpless with her swift grab of the ball and flash finish. Though Laura got a goal in the dying seconds of the match, with a well converted free-kick from 25 yards, it proved just a consolation.
However the day's final match produced the thrills and the unexpected twist, even if unwittingly. None smelt a rat at the start when Punjab went all out.
In the fourth minute, Harjinder Kaur had a shy at the post. With Gurmeet doing what Parminder Singh used to do in the men's team, moving around and essaying long shots, Haryana end was kept under siege.
Expectedly Gurmeet's effort paid dividends in the 17th minute when goal-keeper Versha let go a shot past her for Aarti to tap in softly. Five minutes later Aarti again showed the opportunism to make it 2-0. With Haryana unable to make inroads despite Pooja, Reena, Renu and Monika doing lot of running. the struggle was on.
As it happened, nearing the half way stage, there was a blitz of goals with Gurmeet scoring first, then Haryana's Pooja pulling back one before Harkamal Kaur adding another for Punjab.
At 4-1, Haryana was in danger at half time but when Renu Dahiya was `allowed' a goal (74th minute), the Punjab players were unable to hide their intentions and the calculation seemed perfect. Then came the `calamity'.
The final league table (read as team, matches played, won, lost, drawn, goals for, goals against, points):
Group A: Goa 3-3-0-0-14-0-9; Karnataka: 3-1-1-1-19-2-4; Tripura 3-1-1-1-14-2-4; Jammu and Kashmir 3-0-3-0-0-43-0.
Group B: Assam 2-2-0-0-9-1-6; Maharashtra 2-1-1-0-2-2-3; Delhi 2-0-2-0-0-8-0.
Group C: Punjab 3-3-0-0-20-4-9; Kerala 3-1-1-1-13-4-4; Haryana 3-1-1-1-14-6-4; Chandigarh 3-0-3-0-0-33-0.
Group D: Tamil Nadu 2-2-0-0-23-0-6; UP 2-1-1-0-3-8-3; Rajasthan 2-0-2-0-0-18-0.
Note: Top two qualify from each group.
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