Santosh Trophy: Mizoram blanks erratic Maharashtra

Punjab and Railways players in action at Navelim, Goa on Monday. Punjab defeated Railways 2-1.   -  PTI

 

Mizoram overcame last year’s runner-up Maharashtra 3-1 in a Group B match of the 71st Santosh Trophy National Football championship at the GMC stadium, Bambolim here on Monday.

From the time it conceded a soft opening goal early in the first half, Maharashtra was forced to play second fiddle to the 2013 champion Mizoram which punished its rival for the erratic and wasteful game. Lalchhuanawma Vanchhawng (8th), Lalfakzuala Fakzuala (44th) and F. Lalrinpuia (55nd) were the goal scorers for Mizoram. Rahul Das reduced the margin for Maharashtra in the 12th minute.

In another match in the same group, Punjab defeated Railways 2-1 at Navelim.

Mizoram went ahead in the sixth minute largely due to Maharashtra goalkeeper Harshad Deepak Meher’s mistake. Maharashtra defender Sebin Varghese intercepted a long ball from the middle and back headed towards Harshad. But Harshad had strayed away from his line and was hopelessly stranded when the ball reached him.

The goalkeeper managed to palm the ball over his head at the last moment only for the lurking Vanchhawng to rush in and tap the ball home. Maharashtra regrouped and cancelled the strike quickly. A threatening move from the right flank saw the ball being relayed into Mizoram’s goal mouth. The defence failed to clear the ball and the loose ball came to unmarked Rahul Das whose powerful right footer from top of the box was bang on target.

Maharashtra had an opportunity to go ahead in the 32nd minute when Shravan Shetty tore down the left flank and sent in a precise cross but Abhishek Ambedkar failed to connect and wasted a good chance. Abhishek again was the culprit in the 42nd minute when he ballooned the ball over the bar from close range after being fed by Aaron D’costa from the right flank.

Mizoram went ahead again in the 43rd minute when Fakzuala volleyed home from inside the box with a first timer as Lalrinpuia hooked it into the box from a thrown in.

Any notion of a Maharashtra fightback quickly evaporated when Mizoram went ahead in the sixth minute of the second half. The hardworking La Fakuzula did the spadework as he cut through the defence from the right flank and squared the ball from near the touchline for Lal Sangbera to tap in. Mizoram thereafter played the percentage football and concentrated more on preserving its lead. Maharashtra’s attack lacked ideas or teeth to trouble the defence.

On Tuesday, defending champion Services begins its campaign against West Bengal while Chandigarh takes on Meghalaya.

The results:

Mizoram 3 (Lal Chhuawma 6, Lal Fakuzula 43 and Lal Sangbera 51) bt Maharashtra 1 (Rahul Das 12); Punjab 2 (Manvir Singh 16, Rajbir Singh 60) bt Railways 1 (Rajesh Soosanayakan 59).