MALAPPURAM: Suhair V P struck a hat-trick to help Kerala’s young brigade post a stylish 6-0 win over Andhra Pradesh in their Group A opening clash of the 69th Santosh Trophy south zone qualifiers at the Malappuram District Sports Council Stadium, Manjeri, on Thursday.
Shyjumon M scored a brace while Shibin Lal V K also entered the scoresheet as Kerala began this year’s Santosh Trophy campaign in emphatic fashion at the expense of a sloppy inexperienced Andhra unit.
The hosts dominated the proceedings from the word go, but failed to find the target until Suhair found the back of the net twice in a spell of five minutes late in the first half. Shyjumon’s effort six minutes after the restart, however, killed the match as a contest.
Kerala, who tried a possession-based game for the first match, were always in control of the match, barring some moments in the first half when the visitors invaded the Kerala half to create some attacking threat. Andhra Pradesh really lacked the cutting edge in the game partly because of their inexperienced front-line as they struggled to elude a solid Kerala back four led by Kerala captain Surjith V V.
Kerala supporters created a tremendous atmosphere in the stadium, but their players occasionally fell silent in the first half, unable to find an opening despite dominating possession for most periods of the game.
The hosts found the opener in 41st minute after an attack through the right wing. Johnson began the move, playing the ball to Shibin near the box. The SBT player laid it off to a charging Suhair who then launched the ball into roof of the net.
Suhair doubled the lead in the added minutes of the first half with a beautiful finish after a clever ball from Surjith found him at the edge of the area.
Shyjumon then diverted home a diagonal cross from Shibin to give Kerala an unassailable lead in 51st minute.
Shibin then added to the tally with another strike smart strike in the 81st minute. Askar V S crossed for Suhair to complete his hat trick in 90th minute before Shyjumon piled up more misery on Andhra Pradesh with a strike in the first minute of the second half injury time.
Services meet Puducherry
Three-time winners Services will play Puducherry in the group B opening encounter of the South-Zone qualifiers at District Sports Council Stadium at Manjeri on Friday.
Services had won the title for the third time in 2013, beating host Kerala 4-3 in a penalty shootout in the summit clash of the 67th edition of the National Football Championship.
Puducherry did not make the final round as they finished second in the Group B matches of the East-zone qualifiers, while Service ended the last season in the final round of 68th Santosh Trophy held in Chennai.