Substitute Raegan scored a hat-trick as Tamil Nadu ran riot in the second half to crush Punjab 5-0 in the 70th Santosh Trophy National Football championship at the SEC Railway stadium here on Wednesday.

The commanding win helped Tamil Nadu top pool ‘B’ with 10 points with Goa finishing second. TN will meet host Maharashtra in the semifinal.

Tamil Nadu held the aces in the first half but couldn’t break the deadlock. Sirajudeen strove manfully to feed Amarudeen quite a few times but the striker was wasteful. Amarudeen’s best chance came in the 39th minute when the striker was sent clear by Sirajudeen. But in a one-to-one situation with Punjab goalkeeper Kamal Preet Singh, the Tamil Nadu striker delayed his shot and could manage only a feeble attempt which was saved for a corner. During injury time in the first half, Soosiraj hit the bar from close through yet another Sirajudeen pass.

Raegan substituted for off-colour Amarudeen

Coach Robin Charles Raja, after seeing his first choice striker Amarudeen waste plenty of chances, brought in Raegan towards the end of the first half.

Raegan started his goal scoring spree in the 63rd minute after Edwin Syndey had put Tamil Nadu ahead in the 51st minute. The spadework for the opening goal was done by Satish whose long ball found Edwin free on the left flank. Edwin chipped the ball over the goalkeeper for TN’s first goal.

Sirajudeen then began dissecting the Punjab defence with an assortment of sharp passes and turned provider for three Tamil Nadu goals in the second half. For once, his strikers rose to the occasion and converted all the chances that came their way. There was little Punjab could do against the onslaught and slumped to a heavy defeat.

Raegan’s opening goal came in the 63rd minute as the striker made no mistake with the precise centre from Sirajudeen and two minutes later substitute Pradeep increased the lead for Tamil Nadu off another accurate Sirajudeen pass.

Raegan scored his second goal from inside the box as he latched on to the long ball which was relayed to him by Pradeep in the 68th minute. Raegan completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute when he tapped over an advancing goalkeeper Kamalpreet Singh from inside the box. The ball was again relayed to Raegan by Sirajudeen from right.

Tamil Nadu coach praised hat-trick hero Raegan and said that the striker struck form at the right time. ``We achieved objective that was to top the group with a win today. Raegan is a quality player for us. His goals could not have come at the right time. We have steadily improved during the course of the tournament. But there is still room for improvement. We have to be more consistent, ‘’ said the coach.

At University ground, Bengal ended its campaign with a 5-1 win over Assam in an inconsequential pool ‘B’ encounter. Sheikh Faiz (24, 91) and Narohari Sheshtha (39, 49) struck braces for the winner after Dipandu Dowary opened scoring in the 10th minute. Appuruba Phukan scored the consolation goal for Assam in the 93rd minute.

The result:

Tamil Nadu 5 (Edwin Sydney 51, A. Raegan 63, 68, 87, Pradeep 65) bt Punjab 0

Bengal 5 (Dipandu Dowary 10, Sheikh Faiz 24, 91, Narohari Shestha 39, 49) bt Assam 1 (Appuruba Phukan 93).

Standings: Tamil Nadu 4-3-1-0-9-0-10; Goa 4-3-1-0-5-1-10; West Bengal: 4-2-0-2-7-5-6; Punjab 4-1-0-3-2-7-3; Assam: 4-0-0-4-1-11-0 (read as played, won, draw, lost, goals for, goals against and points)