Santosh Trophy: Karnataka reaches semis

Karnataka eked out a 1-0 win over Mizoram to reach the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy.

Karnataka's S. Rajesh (centre) in action against Mizoram.   -  Debashish Bhaduri

Karnataka rode on striker S. Rajesh’s 74th minute goal to defeat Mizoram 1-0 and enter the Santosh Trophy semifinals here on Wednesday. In the last Group B match at the Mohun Bagan ground, Karnataka toiled hard to find the winner and reach the last four as the group-topper.

Both Karnataka and Mizoram garnered nine points apiece, but the former took the top spot on the basis of the head-to-head result between the two sides.  In the semifinals, Karnataka will play Group A’s second-placed side Bengal, while Mizoram will take on leader Kerala on Friday.

In the other Group B match at the Sailen Manna Stadium, Howrah, Goa defeated Punjab 4-1 to deny the northern side a spot in the semis.

READ: Kerala tops group after win over Bengal

With Mizoram coach Lalsangzuala Hmar making nine changes in order to try out some reserves, the situation favoured Karnataka, which desperately needed a win to stay in contention.

The Kerala side showed good coordination to begin aggressively and maintained the tempo in the hot and humid weather. With captain Vignesh Gunashekar donning the role of a supplier, Liton Shil, Leon Augustine and Rajesh kept the Mizoram defence on its toes.

Karnataka was denied a few chances as Mizoram goalkeeper Lalhmingliana managed to save a few strikes, despite his slippery hands.

In the 25th minute, Rajesh staged a spectacular move, when he took the ball on the left and dribbled through to the centre before launching a solid drive, which forced a fine save from the Mizoram 'keeper. Augustine headed the rebound, but his attempt missed the mark.

Mizoram, too, had its share of narrow misses. Its best chance of the tie came in the 52nd minute, when Malsawmzuala M. C.’s attempt was brilliantly headed away by an alert Shahbaz Khan on the goal line. Within seconds, Shil’s shot hit the Mizoram crossbar and raised anxiety in the stands.

Karnataka’s persistence finally paid off as Rajesh, who could not convert an open chance in the 72nd minute, slotted in a loose ball and earned his side all three points.

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