Maharashtra kept their semi-finals hopes alive with a hard fought 1-0 win against Punjab in a Group B encounter of the 71st Santosh Trophy at the GMC Stadium here today. Punjab after today's loss finished on five points are second in the table, while Kerala who beat Mizoram are at the top of the table with 7 poins and have qualified for the semi-finals. Maharashtra who opened their account have three points along with Railway from three matches. Maharashtra showed more intent right from the start with several penetrating runs, good individual play and crisp passing that left Punjab high and dry in several occasions. Maharashtra's best chance came when Rahul Das laid the ball on a platter for Abhishek Ambekar but he shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. Godfrey Pereira's side were making all the right moves and forcing the Punjab midfielders to back track. Aaron D'Costa and Abhishek Ambekar along with Vijith Shetty combined well on several occasions. Punjab could have taken the lead against the run of play when Harpal Singh squared the ball to Rajbir Singh but his shot was blocked by the Maharashtra goalkeeper Aditya Mishra. The second half saw the pendulum swing totally in favour of Maharashtra and it was only a matter of time before Vijith Shetty put them ahead. A brilliant square ball from Aaron D'Costa found Vijit Shetty in acres of space inside the box.
He neatly turned one defender and shot right in the top corner leaving Punjab keeper Paramjit Singh with absolutely no chance of making a save. Punjab had their best chance to equalise when a brilliant cross from Amandeep Singh on the right found an unmarked Harpal Singh. He, however, tried to smash in a volley first time, and his weak shot was easily saved by the keeper. That was the closest Punjab would get as Maharashtra kept raiding their defence. Substitute Astle Pereira could have put the result beyond doubt missing two golden opportunities as Godfrey Pereira's side hung on for their first three points of the tournament.
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