Santosh Trophy: Fancied Kerala starts with a goalless draw

Spirited Telangana holds Kerala while Services thumps Puducherry in the South Zone qualifiers for the 73rd Santosh Trophy.

Telangana's Dokkari Srihari works his way up against Kerala in the 73rd Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers at the Bharathi Stadium in Neyveli on Monday.   -  Rayan Rozario

Defending champion Kerala was expected to get past Telangana with ease but the latter put up a brave show to earn a goalless draw over the former in the South Zone qualifiers of the 73rd Santosh Trophy at the Bharathi Stadium in Neyveli on Monday.

It was a cleverly chalked out strategy by the Telangana coach Shabbhir Ali that did the trick for the team. He asked his boys to concentrate more on guarding the fort and, they did that in an impeccable manner.

Shafique Mohammad and Syed Abbad Anas cut short the speed of the Kerala forwards time and again And, even if they managed to dent the defence, Reddi Rajinaidu, the Telangana custodian, spoiled their party with some stunning saves.

The Kerala boys came up with some crisp short passes but the big folly was that they operated more from the wings rather than penetrating from the centre. There were some agonising moments too for Kerala as quite a few of its shots found the crossbar. It was clear that it was not Kerala's day.

Shabbir was pleased with the result. “A draw against a champion side of India is always pleasing. I am happy with the start.”

“Kerala had more scoring chances than us but my boys stood the test well,” he added.

V.P. Shaji, the Kerala coach, said chances were created but converting it into goals was a problem. There were so many that came our way but they defended well. We wanted to start on a winning note but it was not our day.”

Services registers 3-0 win

Former champion Services began its campaign with a 3-0 win over Pondicherry. The latter did a creditable job in handling the early pressure but fell back midway through the second session.

Lady luck smiled on Services as the team went 1-0 up midway through the first half, thanks to an own goal by R. Sudhakaran. It did upset Pondicherry but it fought for most part.

It played the second session in a similar fashion but two goals in the space of two minutes upset its plans of staging a recovery.

“We played the long balls in the first half but, more of ball possession in the second period helped us a great deal. The wingers also penetrated inside confidently,” said Parshuram Salwadi, the Services coach.

Results

Kerala 0 drew with Telangana 0.

Services 3 (N. Herojit Singh 67, Mohammad Danish 68) bt Pondicherry 0 (R. Sudhakaran 42 (OG).

Tomorrow’s match: Andhra vs. Karnataka, 3 p.m.

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