An unimaginative Kerala scraped through to a semifinal meeting with perennial rivals Maharashtra after being held to a 1-1 draw by Haryana in the 67th Santosh Trophy here on Tuesday.
The hosts, up against a defensive Haryana in their final Group C quarterfinal league match at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, could create little and sneaked into the last four thanks to a well-taken 58th minute goal by star striker Kannan R. Just as it appeared that they might well have sewn up full points, a defensive error helped Haryana level the game in the 90th minute, through midfielder Pankaj Sura.
With a point from the result, the five-time former champions topped the group with seven points. Haryana, in a do-or-die battle, did not quite carry the ammunition required to topple even a below par Kerala and bowed out.
For Kerala the goal, along with the build up to it, was perhaps the only moment of genuine quality. After a barren first half, Kannan stole a yard on his marker inside the six-yard box and rose in the air before beautifully turning in a measured cross from the right by partner Usman P. The move was set off by substitute C Nazarudheen, who beat his man near the centre circle before finding skipper Rahul P who switched play smartly to the right wing for Usman to deliver the telling cross, even as the gallery erupted in joy to Kannan’s clinical finish. Kannan was named the Man of the Match.
TN Crash Out
Kollam: Propelled by N P Pradeep’s brace, Maharashtra cruised into the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy as they defeated last year’s runners-up Tamil Nadu 2-1 in a Group B match. The loss ended TN’s hopes. Pradeep’s first strike came in the 75th minute. While A Raegan scored the equaliser in the 85th, Pradeep’s second goal three minutes later sealed the game for Maharashtra.