Dr. T Ao Trophy: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland enter semi-finals
Kohima, Jan. 24 (EMN): Arunachal Pradesh thrashed Tripura 16-0 and host team Nagaland defeated six-times champions Manipur 3-2 in the nail-biting match in the ongoing North East Dr. T Ao Trophy at IG Stadium in Kohima, on Friday.
Arunachal Pradesh became the third team, after Nagaland and Mizoram, to book their semi-final berth after humiliating Tripura.
A combined effort from Avinash Kharel, Charu Lalum and Tagru James helped Arunachal Pradesh score six goals in the first half before adding 10 more in the second half.
Arunachal Pradesh coach George Pertin made midfielder Kharel play in the front, and the gamble worked as he scored five goals in the game.
Kharel opened the floodgates for Arunachal Pradesh just eight minutes into the game and added one more in the 35th minute. He scored his third goal in the 39th minute, becoming the third player to score a hat-trick in the tournament. He also went on to slot home two more goals in the 77th and 88th minutes.
Lalum too scored a hat-trick for Arunachal Pradesh by scoring the 10th, 24th and 43rd minutes. Substitute James joined the hat-trick club by scoring in the 86th and 89th minutes, and again in the added time. The rest of the goals were scored by Tapi Hakhe with two, and one each by Puji Nohag, Torh Doru and Dorjee Sherpa.
In the second match of the day, Nagaland defeated six-times champions Manipur in front of a packed home crowd.
In a thrilling encounter, Nagaland took the lead through captain Khwetelhi Thopi, who converted a spot-kick into a goal, following a handball by Manipur midfielder Haolengou Kipgen inside the box in the 8th minute.
Manipur fought back hard but failed to make good use of the five corner kicks the early minutes of the game. However, midfielder Lalminliel Vaiphei scored the much-needed equaliser in the 41st minute for the visiting team after Sushil Kumar Singh headed a clever pass to him from near the goal post.
10 minutes into the second half, Nagaland once again took the lead through striker Rhithso Mero and Thopi sealed the match for the host team by scoring the third goal during injury time.
Manipur’s Lunginthang scored moments later but it was too late to fight back and the scoreline stood at 3-2 in favour of Nagaland after the final whistle.
Haolengou Kipgen of Manipur was shown the red card after the final whistle for his disrespectful act to the referee.
Nagaland is now leading Group A with nine points. Both Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur have four points each but latter were through to the next round on goal difference, which the latter are out of the tournament. Tripura has failed to open their account.
Nagaland will now play against the runners-up of Group B in the first semi-final on January 27 at 2 pm while Arunachal Pradesh will play the winner of Group B in the second semi-final on the same day at 4:30 pm.
Assam vs Meghalaya at 2:00 pm
Sikkim vs Mizoram at 4:30 pm