Manipur drew with Bengal 3-3 in a Pool E match of the Hockey India 13th Senior National Men’s Championship here on Thursday, topping the group and entering the quarterfinals on better goal difference - 19 to Bengal’s 14.
It was a riveting contest with both teams -- with two wins each in the group -- going all out for a victory. Bengal fought back brilliantly from a 0-2 deficit to equalise 2-2, and was leading 3-2 before India player Nilakanta Sharma converted a stroke in the dying minutes.
Manipur was in the driver’s seat leading 2-0 at the end of the first two quarters. Bengal came into its own in the third quarter as it attacked relentlessly on both flanks and earned three penalty corners, which however, couldn’t be converted.
Bengal appeared undeterred and continued to mount a wave of attacks. Nitish Neupane deflected in a cross from the sidelines by Dhananjoy Meetei and then Rajendra Oram scored off a penalty stroke to make it 2-2.
Bengal went into raptures when Nitish deceived a defender to sweep one past the ‘keeper Birjit Charoibam Singh. The joy was shortlived as Nilakanta scored off a stroke to ensure Manipur reach the knock-outs.
The last list of group matches will be on Friday before the quarterfinals on Saturday.
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