Bangalore - A youthful Manipur, coached by former India star Tikken Singh, held their nerves to beat Association of Indian Universities 4-3 and qualify for the quarter-finals of Hockey India’s senior National Men’s Hockey championship, here Friday.
The hard-fought win saw Manipur finishing on top of Pool H with nine points to advance to the knock-out stage while the collegians finished second after losing a well-contested match.
Also through to the next phase of the competition were the Indian Railways who overcame talented Uttar Pradesh 3-1 to top Pool F with an unbeaten record.
Railways and Manipur joined defending champions Haryana (Pool A), Punjab (Pool C), Air India (Pool E) and Tamil Nadu (Pool G) in the knock-out stage that commences Sunday.
Starring in Manipur’s thrilling win were Jayantakumar Meitel and Gangamba, who scored two goals apiece, while the Universities replied through Barkat Singh (2) and Hansraj (1).
An action-packed first half saw Manipur scoring twice as Meitel and Gangamba found the mark in the 17th and 19th minutes, but the collegians fought back to equalize through Barkat Singh (25th) and Hansraj (32nd).
On change of ends, Manipur stepped up the pressure with Gangamba giving them the lead with a 36th minute strike only to see Barkat putting Universities back on part in the 42nd. Meitel then sealed the issue in the 55th minute and Manipur managed to nurse the lead to the finish.
The Railways found their heroes in Sanjay Bir Singh (15th, 34th) and Victo Singh (42nd) while Chandan Singh (22nd) brought some solace for Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier, hosts Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand registered their third wins to keep themselves in contention for quarter-final berths.
Karnataka easily defeated Delhi 9-0 and Andhra Pradesh routed Mizoram 15-3 in two Pool B matches while Jharkhand overwhelmed Goa 15-0 to maintain their unbeaten run in Pool D where Guwahati-based Sashatra Seema Bal later beat Uttarakhand 5-1 for their second win.
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka both have nine points apiece, but the home team is better placed on goal-difference. The two teams meet Saturday to decide who will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Topping the Jharkhand goal-rush was drag-flick specialist and India player Diwakar Ram who converted seven penalty corners and another international Ajitesh Roy netted two while Wilson Minz, Anil Xaxa, Banmali Xess, Birendra Lakra, Shashi Topno and John Minz contributed one goal apiece.
Pool A: Bhopal 2 (Irfan Ali 45th; Merajuddin 66th) beat Bengal 0.
Pool B: Karnataka 9 (Pundalik Bellary 1, VR Raghunath 1, Vikram Kanth 1, MK Mudappa 1, Shanker Patil 1, PL Thimmanna 1, SK Uthappa 1, Nikin Thimmaiah 1, Nitin Thimmaiah 1) beat Delhi 0.
Andhra Pradesh 15 (Kishore Krishna 3; Ajay Babu 4; Ramesh Krishna 3; Sandeep Raju 3; Avinash Chindrapu 2) beat Mizoram 3 (Lalthakima 1; Lalduhawma 1; Lalrinngheta 1).
Pool D: Jharkhand 15 (Diwakar Ram 7; Ajitesh Roy 2; Wilson Minz 1; Anil Xaxa 1; Banmali Xess 1; Birendra Lakra 1; Shashi Topno 1; John Minz 1) beat Goa 0.
Sashatra Seema Bal 5 (S Romikumar Singh 2; L Joychandra Singh 1; Santikumar Sharma 1; H Surchandra Singh 1) beat Uttarakhand 1 (Prakash Singh Mehra 1).
Pool F: Indian Railways 3 (Sanjay Bir Singh 2; Victo Singh 1) beat Uttar Pradesh 1 (Chandan Singh 1).
Assam 6 (Magalinga Swami 1; Ratan Mutana 1; Rajesh Boro 2; KD Cariappa 1; Own Goal 1) beat Tripura 0.
Pool H: Manipur 4 (Jayantakumar Meitel 2; Gangamba 2) beat Association of Indian Universities 3 (Barkat Singh 2; Hansraj 1).
Bihar 6 (Riazuddin 2; Niraj Tigga 2; Gabriel Herenj 1; Anup Topno 1) beat Andaman & Nicobar 0.