Bengal shattered Meghalaya's dream to make it to the semi-finals as they scored a hard-fought 2-0 win to finish on top of Group A at the 71st Santosh Trophy football touenament, here on Monday.
Bengal, who had the better share of exchanges in the first half, scored through Shaikhom Ronald (9th minute) and Manvir Singh (86th).
Bengal finished their league engagements with 10 points to top Group A and will meet the runners of Group B in the first semi-finals on March 23. While Goa, who finished second with eight points, will meet Kerala in the second semi-finals later in the evening.
Meghalaya, who needed a win to keep their hopes alive for a place in the semi-finals, had the first shot at the rival goal when Enestar Malngiang's free kick from the right was saved by a diving Bengal keeper Sankar Roy in the eighth minute.
Bengal, the first team to qualify for the semis in this tournament, retaliated and took the lead a minute later.
A swift move down the left saw Manvir Singh play a square pass to Shaikhom Ronald, who beat the rival keeper Kenio Lyngkhoi with a deft placement. Meghalaya controlled the proceedings but found going tough against the resolute rival defence.
After a brief lull, Bengal had another glorious chance to increase their lead but Manvir Singh who had an open chance inside the box shot over off a pass from Shaikhom Ronald in the 23th minute.
Bengal, who played a waiting game, came with swift counter moves and Samad Ali Mallick stretched Kenio to make a diving save 10 minutes later.
After resumption, Meghalaya made two changes bringing in Fullmoon Mukhim and Bikyson Kharkongor in place of Marlyngki Suting and Andy Zakhary Mawthoh and the move paid off as Meghalaya kept on pressing in search of the equaliser with steady flow of passes. They had two clear chances but substitute Fullmoon Mukhim saw his header going over and later Kitboklang Pale's left footer went straight into the hands of keeper Sankar Roy.
Bengal, who were seen defending their citadel, came with a counter move and increased their lead in the 86th minute through Manvir Singh.
Meghalaya, who went all out in the final stages, have themselves to blame for the loss as they missed two clear chances in the dying minutes.