Kolkata, March 28 (IANS) K. P. Rahul’s late strike helped Kerala edge past defending champions Bengal 1-0 and enter semifinals as Group A toppers in the national football championship for the 72nd Santosh Trophy on Tuesday.
Rahul was set up by Jithin MS from the right wing before guiding the ball into the net for the winning goal in the 90th minute.
Kerala, courtesy the result, finished with four victories from as many matches to top Group A with 12 points. Bengal ended second with nine points from four matches.
Bengal will face Group B toppers while Kerala will take on the runner-up in the two semifinals on March 30.
In an inconsequential match at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium, Maharashtra thumped Manipur 7-2 after trailing 1-2 at halftime.
For Manipur Chanso Horam scored in the 17th minute before Maharashtra restored parity through Sahil Bhokare (28th).
The Northeastern outfit once again scored through Naorem Dhananjay Singh’s spotkick in the 40th minute to lead 2-1 at the break.
After the break, Maharashtra stole the show riding on treble from Ranjeet Singh (59th, 78th and 90+1st minutes).
Nikhil Prabhu (76th), Kiran Pandhare (87th) and Mohammad Rahman Ansari (90+3rd) completed the rout for Maharashtra.