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Santosh Trophy

Santosh Trophy 2023-24: Manipur, Railways, Delhi make way to quarter-finals

Published at :February 29, 2024 at 10:50 PM
Modified at :February 29, 2024 at 10:50 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF Media)

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Mizoram, Karnataka and Maharashtra’s dreams of playing the Santosh Trophy knockouts are still not over.

It’s a tale of six teams in two conundrums in Group B of the 2023-24 Santosh Trophy. On the one hand, Manipur, Delhi, and Railways have sealed their respective spots in the quarterfinals at the Golden Jubilee Stadium in Itanagar, on Thursday, February 29, 2024.

On the other, the bottom three teams – Mizoram, Maharashtra, and Karnataka will have all to fight for one last place in their respective last matches of the group on March 2.

Manipur maintained their lead at the top of the Group B table with a big 4-1 win against Mizoram; they now stand atop the group with 10 points. Meanwhile, Delhi and Railways both now stand on seven points apiece, and have thus sealed their spots in the last eight.

With the four quarterfinalists in Group A already decided, only one knockout spot remains, which will be contested in Group B between Mizoram (four points), Maharashtra (three points) and Karnataka (two points).

Railways edge Karnataka

Railways confirmed their qualification for the quarterfinals after defeating defending champions Karnataka 1-0.

Subrata Murmu (53’) scored the only goal of the game in the second half, to inflict a defeat on Karnataka that puts their quarterfinal chances in serious jeopardy, as they have only been able to garner two points from four matches.

Railways have secured themselves a ticket to the quarterfinals but will be looking for the maximum points in their last game against Mizoram for a higher standing in the group.

The defending champions were desperate, they needed the three points and played the match similarly. Coached by Ravi Babu Raju, who had led them to the title last season in Riyadh, they began the match by mounting wave after wave of attacks on the Railways defence, and forward Nikhil Raj Murugesh Kumar came agonizingly close to putting them in the lead just after the quarter-hour mark when he capitalised on some confusion within the Railways defence to get his shot away at an empty goal, but his effort came off the post. Vinith Venkatesh pounced on the rebound, but Railways goalkeeper Anupam Sinha had closed in on him and made a point-blank save.

The Railways defence continued their scramble to keep the scores level, and a little after the half-hour mark, defender Monish Majumder showed great awareness to make back-to-back blocks, first off a back-flick by Nikhil Raj from inside the six-yard box, and then from an effort off the rebound by Vishal R.

Their doggedness at the back finally paid off after the restart, when against the run of play, the Railwaymen took the lead. Goalkeeper Sinha hooved a long one upfield, which was knocked on by a gaggle of heads, as Subrata Murmu ran on to the ball, shrugged off Karnataka centre-back Prabin Tigga and then proceeded to turn the latter outside, and then in, before flicking the ball into the goal with the outside of his boot.

Karnataka may have been down, but they were not out. Their attacks came in waves, and the Railway defence took a couple of casualties in their efforts to keep the defending champions out. In the dying minutes, captain Goutam Kujur had to be stretchered off after he came off worse in a tackle before goalkeeper Sinha took one for the team while making a save in injury time. Karnataka substitute D Sheltohn Paul struck one from long range, as Sinha backtracked and tipped the ball onto the crossbar and out. In the process, however, Sinha himself collided against the post and went down in a heap.

With just a couple of minutes of injury time left, however, Sinha gingerly carried on, prowling the Railways goal with a slight limp, as his side clinched the three points.

Manipur seal quarterfinal spot

Manipur booked their spot in the Santosh Trophy 2023-24 quarterfinal with a 4-1 win against Mizoram at the Golden Jubilee Stadium.

Philam Sanathoi Meetei netted a brace (35’, 90’) for Manipur, while Leimajam Sangkar Singh (8’) and substitute Pebam Renedy Singh (56’) scored one each. Malsawmzuala Tlangte (84’) pulled one goal back for Mizoram late in the match, but Manipur had already taken a firm grip over the match.

Manipur, thus remain at the top of Group B with 10 points from four matches and are guaranteed a top-four finish in its standings. A draw against Delhi in their last Group B match will be enough to secure the top spot for them.

Sridarth’s last-minute strike ensures Delhi’s quarters berth

Delhi huffed and puffed, but finally booked their spot in the quarterfinals after defeating Maharashtra 3-2 in a game that ebbed and flowed between the two ends at the Golden Jubilee Stadium.

Maharashtra started the game needing a win to boost their chances (they stand fixed at fifth in Group B), and immediately got the goal they were looking for through Mohammed Arafat Ansari (5’). Delhi, however, equalised shortly through Bhaaranyu Bansal (7’), before taking the lead just before the half-time whistle via Milind Negi’s strike.

Maharashtra came back hard in the second half, and Mohammed Arafat Ansari netted his second of the night in the 65th, but Delhi clinched their ticket to the quarters deep in injury time when substitute and former India U-16 international Sridarth Nongmeikapam (90+7’) blasted in the winner with his left foot.

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