Karnataka qualifies for final with 4-1 rout of Services

Karnataka will face either Tamil Nadu or Kerala in the final of Santosh Trophy South Zone Qualifiers.

Karnataka's S. Rajesh (left) puts in a low cross, during the match against Services on Sunday.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN

An inspired show from Karnataka gave the side a 4-1 win over Services and a Santosh Trophy final round spot. Needing a draw in its final
South Zone qualifier match to make the cut, Karnataka went one better to stun the fancied opponent.

A three-goal burst in the second-half, cheered on by a big crowd at Bangalore Football Stadium here on Sunday, powered Karnataka through.
Striker S. Rajesh recorded a brace, while under-21 player S. K. Azaruddin and N. Solaimalai chipped in with a goal each.

The first-half saw Services exert tremendous pressure on the Karnataka defence. Sturdy midfielder Prabhjot Singh showed vision to feed the
strikers, but a nervy display in the final third cost the unit dear.

Karnataka coach P. Muralidharan was pleased that his side stood firm under attack. “We did very well to get a 1-0 lead at half-time, because Services wrecked havoc by constantly pushing forward. It was difficult to withstand the pressure. If they had scored 3-4 goals, we would have been in deep trouble,” Muralidharan said.

Read: Shahabaaz, Amoes secure hard-fought win for Karnataka

Services, which needed three points to qualify, was desperate to find the net after conceding a penalty in the 10th minute. Prabhjot tripped
Azaruddin inside the area, which led to Azaruddin converting from the spot.

A few minutes after the restart, Karnataka went 2-0 ahead when Rajesh made sweet contact struck off a cross from Leon Augustine. Midfielder
Vignesh Gunashekar then sent Rajesh through with a sublime outside-of-the-boot assist. Rajesh had little trouble in rounding the Services goalkeeper and slotting it in.

Services, now out of the contest, managed to pull one back through Laishram Herojit.

Karnataka added the finishing touches, in the 89th minute, when Solaimalai got on the scoresheet.

A delighted Karnataka skipper Gunashekar said, “This a proud moment for us, as we have qualified for the final round after a few years. To
achieve this in front of our home crowd makes it even more special,” he said.

On Monday, Tamil Nadu and Kerala will battle for the second final round spot. While Tamil Nadu needs a win to progress, a draw will suffice for Kerala.

The results:

Group A:

Telangana 4 (Madan Kumar 14, 64, Syed Abid 18, 60) bt Pondicherry 0;
Karnataka 4 (S. Rajesh 49, 72, S.K. Azaruddin 10, Solaimalai 89) bt
Services 1 (Laishram Herojit 86).
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