Santosh Trophy: Maharashtra beats J&K, Railways held

Maharashtra opened its Santosh Trophy campaign with a win over Jammu and Kashmir while Mizoram scored late to rescue a draw against Railways.

Mahrashtra's Shrikant Veeramallu (C) celebrates with Mervin Stephen (L) while Aaron D'Souza looks on.   -  Sudarshan Sakharkar

Host Maharashtra, after a stuttering start, recovered well in time to notch an impressive 3-1 win over Jammu and Kashmir in a Group ‘A’ match of the Santosh Trophy football championship at the SEC Railway stadium here on Monday.

The host found the man for the occasion in substitute Shrikant Veeramallu who struck a brace (61st & 70th) to quell a spirited challenge from Jammu and Kashmir in the second half.

The steady drizzle at the start of the match turned into a heavy downpour midway through the first half and the physically superior J & K side, despite lacking the adequate skill and speed, managed to frustrate the Maharashtra side which had more ball possession.

Maharashtra moved up pleasantly with one touch passes but couldn’t penetrate the defensive phalanx set up by rival defenders. There was a sort of predictability in the Maharashtra attack with the moves originating mostly from the left flank through Abhishek. The only open shot which the host managed at the rival goal came at the fag end of the first half when Abhishek’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper Muzamil Farooq.

There was a perceptible switch in tactics by the host in the second half where it used the long ball and the width on the field to create chances. Aaron D’Costa played a big role in the turnaround as he routinely beat his marker from the right to set up crosses for his striker. After seeing a chance wasted a few minutes earlier, Aaron centred a good cross to substitute Shrikant Veeramallu who scored the opening goal in the 61st minute.

But J & K struck back immediately when a long ball from the middle came to Altmash Syed whose first timer struck Maharashtra’s defender Dion Menezes’ hand. The referee awarded a penalty and it was converted by Syed Shoaib in the 64th minute.

Maharashtra regrouped and went ahead in the 70th minute when Vijit Shetty sent Shrikant clear with a through ball and the striker beat the advancing goalkeeper for his second goal.

J &K refused to be cowed down and nice build up through the middle saw the ball relayed to Farukh Chaudhary but his rasping shot hit the bar in the 76th minute.

Maharashtra earned a penalty when Aaron was brought down by Syed Shoaib inside the box. Rayiner Fernandez converted the penalty in the 84th minute.

In Group ‘B’, Mizoram snatched a late equaliser to hold Railways 1-1 at the University stadium.

Jagtar Singh put Railways in the lead in the 58th minute. However, the Railways’ hopes for earning full points was dashed when Malsawfela scored from the spot in injury time to secure a point for Mizoram.

Results

Maharashtra 3 (Shrikant Veramallu 61 70, Raynier Fernandez 84) bt J & K 1 (Syed Shoaib 64)

Railways 1 (Jagtar Singh 58) drew with Mizoram 1 (Malsawfela 94)