Jobby Justin’s hat-trick derailed Railways in a Group B match of the 71st Santosh Trophy football championship at the GMC stadium, Bambolim here on Wednesday.
Kerala, which fell behind by a goal in the 17th minute recovered to post a 4-2 win over Railways, which suffered its second straight defeat in the championship. The KSEB player Jobby was on target in the 21st, 46th and 63rd minutes while captain Usman scored the fourth goal in the 71st minute as former champion Kerala began its campaign on a winning note For Railways, Rajesh Soosanayakan (27th and 86th) scored both the goals. At Vasco, former champions Punjab and Mizoram played out a goalless draw.
Kerala blew hot and cold in the contest. There were phases when it clearly dominated the rivals but inconsistent defence saw it conceding two soft goals which took the sheen away from the win. Kerala struggled initially to find its rhythm and the defence looked shaky as Railways pressed forward.
An error by defender Lijo, who lost the ball to Rajesh Soosanayakam, just outside the box resulted in the opening goal. Rajesh accepted the gift and had no difficulty in beating Kerala goalkeeper Midhun with a stiff grounder.
The goal galvanised the Kerala side which shrugged off its dormant approach and launched a blistering attack at the rival goal. It took just four minutes for Kerala to find the equaliser as Jobby from near post headed in a well directed floater from Nishon Xavier from the right flank. Kerala had the better of exchanges but had to wait till the injury time to go ahead. Railways conceded a needless free-kick when its captain Rajib Boro handled the ball just out the circle. The resultant free-kick was banged in with a lot of power by Jobby.
Kerala dominated the proceedings in the second half. Jobby headed in a corner from Sreesan to increase the lead in the 63rd minute. Usman underlined Kerala’s supremacy by nodding in a Jishnu Balakrishnan’s perfect cross from the right flank in the 71st minute.
However, Kerala lowered its guard and allowed Railways to claw back. Rajesh, after messing an easy chance to score in the 85th minute, made amends in the next minute when he scored off a free-kick from Deepak Kachhap. Though Railways pressed hard in the dying minutes, Kerala managed to hold on to its lead and win the match.
Kerala coach V. P. Shaji was happy to start the campaign with a win, but rued the two soft goals which his side conceded through poor defending. “It is good to start with a win. But the team still has to improve a lot especially in the defence. We conceded two easy goals which shouldn’t have. Hopefully we will be able to plug the holes in the coming matches,” he said.
On Thursday, old rivals Bengal and Goa renew their rivalry while Services takes on Chandigarh.
Kerala 4 (Jobby Justin 21, 46, 63, Usman 71) bt Railways 2 (Rajesh Soosanayakam 17, 86). Mizoram drew Punjab 0-0.
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