The Southerners have now scored 11 goals in their first two games in the tournament.
Kerala routed Manipur with a scintillating second-half performance, which saw them emphatically defeat the Manipuris 6-0 at the Howrah Stadium on Friday. A brace from Jithin Gopalan and goals from Jithin MS, Rahul KP and Afdal VK helped Kerala go to the top of Group A and eliminate Manipur from the 72nd Santosh Trophy.
was a do or die game for Manipur who needed a win at all costs to stay alive in the tournament, while Kerala aimed to go top of the table with another resounding victory. Manipur started the game with 5 at the back, making it really difficult for Kerala to penetrate through their defense. Despite Kerala having the better possession in the first phase of the game, it was Manipur who created the first real chance when Chingakham Singh’s ambitious shot from 40 yards out almost caught Kerala goalkeeper Midhun V napping and luckily for him, the shot only whiskered over.
Kerala created their first chance in the 24th minute when right-back Lijo showed great energy and put in a dangerous cross, but goal-keeper Salam Singh bravely put his body on the line and cleared it out of danger.Kerala were threatening after the half-hour mark and created a good chance in the 39th minute when Sajith Poulose went past a few defenders before the ball scrambled to Rahul KP, whose shot was cleared off the line by Manipur’s defense.Manipur striker Jerry Poulose got two attempts at goal in the next few minutes, but both his shots were poor and collected by the Kerala goalkeeper.
Kerala came out a completely different side in the 2nd half threatening from a corner in the 47th minute and after an initial clearance from Manipur, Rahul KP’s powerful header fell kindly for super-sub Afdal VK, who coolly finished from a close to range to make the break-through for Kerala. They seemed to have a lot of confidence from that and created a beautiful move through a corner, with Sreerag sending in a curling cross which met the head of Afdal, but was collected by Loitongbam.
Kerala doubled their lead in the 59th minute after launching a terrorizing counter-attack and Jithin M.S’s beautiful cross was initially scuffled out by Manipur’s defenders, but Gokulam Kerala’s U-19 player Rahul KP pounced on it and had his first attempt cleared off the line, but made no mistake in burying the rebound. Kerala looked absolutely ruthless and created another surging move through the right and another great cross fell to the feet of Jithin Gopalan, who made no mistake in putting the ball into the back of the net and give his side an unassailable lead.
Manipur looked to get some salvation and in the 65th minute, midfielder Shougrakpam Singh found some space and let out a vicious shot which was well wide of the mark. Jithin M.S showed amazing awareness in the 71st minute when he stole the ball from Manipur’s defence, before making an amazing run and calmly finishing to get his goal to round up a stunning 2nd half display.
Kerala threatened to score again a few minutes later when Vibin Thomas’ free-kick was scuffled by the keeper, but Kerala couldn’t capitalize on the rebound and the shot only hit the side-netting. The dominant Kerala scored once more in the 82nd minute when Sreerag won the ball in midfield and passed it to Rahul KP, whose initial shot was poorly cleared by the goalkeeper and fell right to Gopalan, who made no mistake in burying it and completing his brace.
Kerala ended the game on a high when they created another stunning counter-attack move and in the 93rd minute, Rahul KP put in a dangerous ball into the middle which was put into their own net by Manipur, who bowed out off the tournament on a terrible low and helped Kerala go top of Group A, with his win establishing them as tournament favorites.
Chandigarh’s semi-final hopes came crashing after a 2-1 loss to Maharashtra in their Group A match of the 72nd Santosh Trophy at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on Friday (March 23, 2018).
Goals from Shubham Khanvilkar in the 5th minute and Dion Menezes in the 9th minute saw Maharashtra take the lead early on. Vishal Sharma’s 88th minute strike provided a consolation goal for Chandigarh.
It took just five minutes for the western state to take the lead. Advait Shinde lost the ball inside the box but Shubham Khanvilkar took advantage of being unmarked and chipped the ball with an outstep over the keeper toward the far post.
Maharashtra doubled their lead four minutes later. The ball fell to skipper Dion Colaco who took an ambitious shot from around 35 yards which the goalkeeper Manvir Singh failed to anticipate and it sailed over his head, into the net.
Pankaj Singh was brought in nonetheless to replace Pawandeep Singh who failed to get the right flank going. The first shot on target for the Union Territory was held well by ‘keeper Aditya Mishra as Hamrinder Singh hit straight towards the custodian.
Chandigarh’s decision-making in the final third was poor from the far and few chances they got. Maharashtra’s two holding midfielders, Kiran Pandhare and Mrunal Tandel did well to keep the game ticking from the centre of the park.
Khanvilkar had another sniff at goal but he took too much time inside the box his shot went wide as his team went into the break two-nil up.
Both sides appeared cautious in the second half but Chandigarh showed more urgency. It was no surprise that the Maharahstra defenders had a bit more work to do as Pramod Pandey pulled off a good block from Vivek Rana’s shot inside the box in the 56th minute.
Substitute Leander Dharmai had the best of chances in the second half when his powerful shot was saved by Manvir Singh on the dive. Chandigarh had their second goalscoring opportunity in the 79th minute and on the other end, defender Nikhil Prahser pulled off a goal-line clearance a couple of minutes later. Prateek Joshi a glaring chance as he hit over the bar in the 83rd minute.
All these chances did result in a late goal for as Vivek Rana’s shot was first saved by Aditya Mishra but Vishal Sharma hit the back of the net off the rebound.
Maharashtra registered their first points on board and next play Kerala on Sunday. Chandigarh, with only one point from three outings, next play Bengal on the same day.