Kerala bounced back from their opening-day defeat against Tamil Nadu, easing past Andhra Pradesh 3-1 in a Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifier at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday.
SBT forward P Usman opened the scoring for Kerala in the 33rd minute while his strike partner R Kannan put them further ahead, four minutes after half-time. Syed Khaleel pulled one back for Andhra 10 minutes later, but Usman settled things in the 71st minute.
Kerala started with a lot of intent and had a number of chances early on. Three minutes after the start, a cross from the left wing found Kannan in the box but the striker took one touch too many. Usman unleashed a fierce short after a mazy run, but it flew just over.
But the game was far from one-sided and Andhra had their moments. In the ninth minute, a freekick, conceded just outside the Kerala penalty area, found its way to Andhra skipper Mohammed Moazzam, whose header was hacked off the line by SBT centre-back T Sajith.
Kerala nearly went ahead in the 23rd minute when winger Prasoon’s cross found Usman, who was only able to find the upright. Two minutes later, it was Andhra’s turn to go close with P Tatam Naidu’s powerful long throw striking the post.
However, it was Kerala who looked the likelier to score and they found their goal through Usman. His shot off winger Jipson Justus’ cross from the right flank struck the inside of the post, before going in.
Their second came soon after the restart. Kannan received the ball from KP Anish and advanced before firing in a low shot. Andhra keeper Raji Naidu made the save, but was unable to hold on to it, and Kannan made no mistake from close range. The Kerala vice-captain had been anonymous in the opener, and his celebration betrayed more relief than joy.
Andhra, though, refused to go down without a fight and pulled one back in the 59th minute. Tatam Naidu’s long throw from the right eluded the Kerala defence and was headed in at the far post by Khaleel.
But their recovery did not last long. Kannan chased down a ball on the left flank and his cross was turned in by Usman for his second in the 71st minute.
The goal knocked the wind out of the Andhra sails and Kerala had a number of chances, only to be denied by poor finishing and some good goalkeeping by Raji Naidu. The Andhra keeper pulled off a brilliant double save, first from Usman and then from Gipson, and he stood between Kerala and a fourth goal until he was substituted with an injury late in the match.
Karnataka started off their Santosh Trophy campaign in fine fashion, trouncing a hapless Andaman & Nicobar Islands 12-0.
Ngurneilal and Don Bosco scored hat-tricks while Stephen V and Anto Xavier scored braces. Xavier Vijayakumar and substitute Gopi Kannan also managed to get on the scoresheet.
Results: Kerala 3 (P Usman 33’, 71’, R Kannan 49’) bt Andhra Pradesh 1 (Syed Khaleel 59’). Karnataka 12 (Ngurneilal 3’, 13’, 62, Stephen V 28’, 33’, Don Bosco 37’, 60’, 69’, Anto Xavier 38’, 46’, Xavier Vijayakumar 74’, Gopi Kannan 76’) bt Andaman & Nicobar Islands 0.