Kolkata, Mar 25 (PTI) Defending champions Bengal defeated Chandigarh by a solitary goal, while Kerala blanked Maharashtra 3-0 to storm into the semifinals from group A in the national football championship for the 72nd Santosh Trophy here today.

Kerala struck through Rahul Raj (23rd), Jithin MS (39th) and Rahul KP (58th) at the Howrah Stadium for their third win in a row and book a semifinal berth with nine points.

Bengal also secured three successive wins after their triumph at Mohun Bagan ground to complete the line-up from group A as they will face Kerala on March 27 to determine the group toppers.

Bengal’s repeated raids finally bore fruit in the 18th minute when Bidyasagar Singh’s shot from a long range deflected off Chandigarh captain Rahul and floated into the net at the Mohun Bagan ground.

Playing after a gap of four days, Bengal were without their captain Jiten Murmu who was down with a stomach bug. In his absence, Tirthankar Sarkar led the side as Chandigarh proved no match to the record 32-times champions.

Bengal suffered a setback in the 36th minute when defender Monotosh Chakladar had to leave the field with a head injury.

Chandigarh custodian Salman Lateef almost gifted Bengal their second goal when he accidentally threw the ball into Rajon Barman’s feet but the striker hesitated in front of the goal and the ball was finally cleared as the hosts squandered many chances.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.