KOZHIKODE: Who needs Superman when you have Usman P in your team. Kerala’s captain was once again instrumental as his team defeated Andhra Pradesh 3-0 in the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifying round at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Saturday.
The hosts flew out of the blocks, with Usman gifting Kerala the lead. Sahal Abdul Samad, one of three U-21 players in Kerala’s eleven, doubled their tally in the 22nd minute with a goal worthy of any highlights reel.
His team having raked up chance after chance, Sahal, who was denied by the crossbar against Puducherry in the last outing, created a goal out of nothing. Picking up possession outside the box, he outmuscled Andhra captain Chandrasekhar T and defender Manjunath G before firing past custodian Hari Babu K to double Kerala’s lead.
Seven minutes later, defender Lijo S put the game to bed with a header off a free-kick. The goal was as straightforward as they come, with Lijo climbing highest to meeting Sreerag’s set-piece and plant a looping header over Babu into the back of the net.
The closest Kerala came to extending their lead in the second half was when Joby Justin was fouled inside the box, after he was played through by Usman. But the young KSEB forward failed to hit the target from the spot. Kerala made a single change from their 3-0 win against Puducherry in the opener, with Asharudeen replacing Anandu Murali on the left wing.
But the team looked better drilled this time around, after the opening game display left a lot to be desired.
With Karnataka defeating Puducherry 3-0, Kerala will only need a draw against their northern neighbours in their final qualifying game to safely make sure of their passage into the final rounds of the tournament.