Chhattisgarh and Haryana played out a 1-1 draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here on Saturday to ensure Goa’s qualification into the quarterfinal league of the 67th Santosh Trophy.
Both goals in the second Group ‘D’ encounter were scored within the first session. Midfielder Pankaj Sura put Haryana ahead in the 10th minute only for Wasim Raja to draw level on 32 minutes.
With the top two advancing from the group, Chhattisgarh — with a solitary point — now have to wait for Goa’s match against Haryana to know their status in the tournament. Goa are sitting pretty with three points from their 2-1 win over the former.
Haryana started off strongly but lost the plot midway through the first half as the Chhattisgarh midfield found its range. The latter employed an interesting 3-5-2 formation with central midfielder Guman Shrestha binding it all together. While the Haryana backline stood confused for the most part, the Chhattisgarh side were guilty of overplaying it a little, refusing to use the width of the field. At times, the edge of the Haryana box was a crowded area as the Chhattisgarh players tried to work their way right down the middle. The strategy presented Haryana with space for quick counters but their attack lacked the verve to make it count. Just a minute into the game, Haryana striker Abhishek missed an easy tap in as partner Vivek Kumar found him free inside the six yard box.
The Haryana goal came out of the blue after a Chhattisgarh defender slipped while advancing to cut off a pass from the deep. Central midfielder Sura picked up the loose ball, ran a few metres unchallenged and blasted a left-footer past Gurpreet Singh in the rival goal. Kumar then weaved past a couple of defenders on the left to put Abhishek in a great position but the striker delayed for the defence to intervene. On the follow up, Kumar forced the keeper into a save with his feet. Chhattisgarh restored parity as the skillful Raja, following a clever exchange of passes with Ravikant Naidu, flicked the ball past the keeper.
Immediately after the break, the gangly Chhattisgarh striker Krishna Naidu missed a sitter from inside the six-yard box. A little later, Raja traded passes with Sukhdeep Singh Sahota before his snap shot went inches wide of the right upright. In the 63rd minute, Naidu brought out a stunning save from Machhinder following Raja’s cut back from the left. A minute later, the impressive Raja galloped down the right flank, cut past a couple of defenders into a shooting position but his left-footer found the keeper in the way. From that point, the game petered out into a draw.
In a crucial Group ‘A’ match on Sunday, Delhi play West Bengal.