Santosh Trophy: Tamil Nadu blanks Assam

The hardworking Praveendran, who came on as substitute for ineffective Raegan in the 67th minute, grabbed his chances to score two quick goals when Assam desperately pressed hard for the equaliser after it fell behind Kalialudeen’s penalty in the first half.

Vikram Vishwas congratulates Praveendran (centre).   -  S Sudarshan

Substitute Praveendran’s brace in space of four minutes completed a fine 3-0 win for Tamil Nadu against Assam in Pool ‘B’ match of the Santosh Trophy football championship at the University Stadium here on Tuesday.

The hardworking Praveendran, who came on as substitute for ineffective Raegan in the 67th minute, grabbed his chances to score two quick goals when Assam desperately pressed hard for the equaliser after it fell behind Kalialudeen’s penalty in the first half.

Tamil Nadu was effective today without exactly dominating its rival and converted the chances that came its way much to the delight of coach Robin Charles Raja. Tamil Nadu relied more on counterattacks and defended well while Assam, which played an open game, paid price for poor defending.

Despite having more of the ball, Assam struggled to create a noteworthy chance in its period of dominance early in the first half. The Tamil Nadu’s backline resisted stoutly to weather the storm. Tamil Nadu against run of play had the first crack at the goal when Edwin Sydney induced a stiff save from Assam goalkeeper Shishuram in the 15th minute.

It set the template for the rest of the match with Tamil Nadu retreating behind to defend and caught its opponent off guard with faster counterattacks. Pradeep had a close look at the Assam goal in the 23rd minute when Soosiraj did the hard work on the left flank and sneaked in a pass after hoodwinking his marker. But, Pradeep’s shot was palmed away by goalkeeper for a corner.

An impressive build up by Tamil Nadu resulted in the first goal as Soosiraj, who entered the Assam box, was brought down by Manesaar Mushahary near the touchline. Captain Kalialaudeen sent goalkeeper the wrong way for the opening goal in the 33rd minute.

Tamil Nadu played more of a percentage game in the second half as Assam threw everything into attack. In the 60th minute a freekick by Assam’s Nabin Rabha from just outside the box created enough confusion in the Tamil Nadu defence and came to unmarked Brahma but, his header was saved by an alert goalkeeper Arun Pradeep.

However, introduction of Praveendran saw the momentum shift in favour of Tamil Nadu. Praveendran’s pace gave more teeth to counterattacks and the striker showed a clean pair of heels to Assam defenders as he connected a Soosiraj centre to score in the 81st minute. Two minute later another counter-attack from Tamil Nadu saw Praveendran score his second goal.

At the SEC Railway stadium in a match between two former champions, Goa overcame Bengal 3-1 to start its campaign on a winning note.

Results:

Tamil Nadu 3 (Praveendran 81, 85, N. Kalialaudeen 33) bt Assam 0.

Goa 3 (Milagres Gonsalves 54, Beevan D’melo 66, Agnelo Colaco 69) bt Bengal 1 (Naro Hari Shrestha 93).