Meghalaya's Cinderella run in the 76th National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy continued on Wednesday as they made a historic maiden entry into the final at the King Fahd International Stadium, here.
Forward Sheen Stevenson Sohktung scored a superb winner off an Donlad Dingdoh assist in the second-half added time to seal a memorable 2-1 victory for Meghalaya against Punjab in the first semifinal of the national championship being played on foreign soil.
Meghalaya came back from a goal down after Punjab had gone ahead via Parmjit Singh (16) and scored through Figo Syndal (37) and Sheen Stevenson as they made the most of their chances to make a maiden entry into the final.
Meghalaya played a more cohesive game and took control of the midfield in the first half. Punjab were hampered by the absence of four first-choice players including goalkeeper Harpreet Singh, striker Rohit Sheikh and Biplub Kala and could not produce the game that has seen the eight-time champions top their preliminary league as well as the final round in Bhubaneswar.
But what proved as a dampener for a well-contested match was a slight drizzle that hampered the players as well as lack of interest from the local diaspora as only a handful of spectators turned out to watch the match.
Punjab started the match on a bright note and made the first attack but Gurtej Singh's attempt was deflected out.
Though Meghalaya made a couple of counter-attacks in the first five minutes, and Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh's superb cross inside the D went abegging as his fellow forwards failed to capitalise on the chance.
Punjab went ahead in the 16th minute when Paramjit Singh capitalised on a fine attack and scored the opening goal of the match, slotting the ball home with a long-range effort off a faulty clearance.
However, Punjab conceded their early midfield advantage and allowed Meghalaya to establish their ascendancy. They took control of the midfield and started dominating possession. Their attacks were well structured and they put the Punjab defence under a lot of pressure.
They equalised in the 37th minute when midfielder Figo Syndal tapped home the ball from close range after it was headed down by Nikalson Bina off a freekick by Allen Camper Lyngdoh.
Syndal had another chance soon after when he made a good run across the box but shot wide. They also failed to capitalise on a couple of more chances as the teams went into half-time with a score of 1-1.
Meghalaya continued to hold the advantage in the second session and though their attacks were more sporadic, they could not capitalise on them and score the winner.
Punjab attempted some counterattacks, attempting to absorb the pressure and relieve the tension with swift long balls. However, their forwards looked clueless in the final third and lost the ball near the box.
But just when it looked like the match will go into extra time, Sheen Stevenson scored off a Donlad Dieengdoh assist to seal a memorable historic victory for Meghalaya in first minute of added time with a brilliant long-range effort that went past the Punjab goalkeeper Shamsher Singh Mahala, who had other made some good saves.
( 555 Words)