Chandigarh, Oct 6 (UNI) Hot favourites Punjab fell flat at the last hurdle as Mizoram emerged champions with a well-earned 1-0 victory in the 31st Sub-Junior National Football Championship-2008 for the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy at the Football Academy ground here in Mahilpur (Punjab).
Punjab were strong contenders on two accounts. First they had a psychological advantage of having beaten Mizoram by 2-0 in group B quarter-final league and secondly they were playing at the home ground. Still they had to bite the dust in the final.
It was speedy and skillful Mizoram striker Lalnumawia who dashed the hopes of Punjab by scoring the match-winner in the 40th minute.
Lalnumawia was declared the Player of the Tournament. Muna Lal of Punjab received the Man of the Match award. Goa were presented the Fair Play Trophy.
Earlier, heavy morning rain rendered the Principal Harbhajan Stadium waterlogged. The final was shifted to the adjacent Football Academy ground which was got ready for the match by mopping up operation. At places petrol was burnt to dry up these wet and slippery patches.
The ground condition more suited to the Mizoram players as they quickly adjust to themselves to such situation. The spectators kept their fingers crossed throughout the match. Punjab substitute Sarabjit Singh 'scored' with a header in the 20th minute. However, he was ruled offside while the Punjab management thought it was a legitimate goal.
Mizoram had an upper hand for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Later the Punjab players started asserting themselves and mounted pressure. The Punjab strikers repeatedly raided the Mizoram goal which somehow survived their rivals second-half onslaught. The Mizoram goalkeeper also rose to the occasion and displayed good anticipation. The Punjab strikers were wayward in their shooting.
They failed to beat the Mizoram goalkeeper who was at times at their mercy. Sukhbir Singh wasted at least three chances and once his shot hit the pole while the goalkeeper stranded at the far post.
Rajbir was also cultprit of missing easy chances.
Harbhajan Sporting Club of Mahilpur, which conducted the Sub-Junior Nationals under the patronage of the Punjab Football Association, gave a cash award of Rs 25,000 to winners Mizoram.
Runners-up Punjab got Rs 21,000. Assam and Goa who finished third and fourth, respectively, were given cash incentives of Rs 11,000 each.
Punjab Sports Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike was the chief guest and distributed the prizes. The Sports Minister also announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the Football Academy of Mahilpur and organisers Harbhajan Sporting Club.
UNI XC PS BP1927