Kerala puts seven past Andhra, Rahul, Afdal bag braces

Kerala was in supreme attacking form although Andhra Pradesh's poor defending helped it run riot.

Kerala's Jitin (left) and Andhra Pradesh's Sabbavaraju Ganesh Kumar in action during the Group B match at the Bengaluru Football Stadium.

In an effortless show of strength, Kerala cruised to a 7-0 victory over Andhra Pradesh in the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers here on Thursday. K.P. Rahul and V.K. Afdal scored a pair of goals each as Kerala embarked on its Group B campaign in style at the Football Stadium.

Sajith Poulose opened the scoring in the third minute, slotting in M. S. Jithin's cross from the right. Not long after, Afdal surged into the box down the inside-right channel and his delivery was buried high in the net by Rahul. Kerala coach Satheevan Balan later picked out the performance of his U-21 players -- Rahul, M. S. Jithin, and Jestin George the three who started -- as his highlight of the game. Rahul and Jithin were excellent on the left and right wings respectively. They were given the freedom of the pitch by a flat-footed Andhra Pradesh defence and the two youngsters ran riot.

Read: Karnataka crushes Telangana

Kerala went 3-0 up when a botched clearance from Singampalli Vinod sailed towards his own goal and 'keeper Siriki Ganesh inexplicably spilled the ball into the net. Only 16 minutes were on the clock.

Kerala relaxed thereafter emerged with renewed zest following the interval. Rahul scored again four minutes into the second half, finding the net with a curler from outside the box. The centre-half Vibin Thomas too got into the act, thundering a free-kick in from 30 yards out; Ganesh, the Andhra custodian and captain, ought to have done better again. The contest was dead but Kerala was far from done. The forward Afdal helped himself to a brace while a group of vocal Kerala Blasters fans rejoiced.

Afterwards, the Andhra Pradesh coach lamented the lack of resources following the bifurcation of the state. "A lot of stuff went with Hyderabad after bifurcation. This is the third year since. Football is happening only in Visakhapatnam. And from all our districts, we have only one academy in Anantapur," said Mohammed Zakeer Hussain.

He added that his team had not had much time to prepare. "We started training late due to internal problems. We could prepare only for a couple of weeks."

There was no sympathy from Kerala on the pitch.

The result: Group B: Kerala 7 (Sajith Poulose 3, K. P. Rahul 13, 49, Singampalli Vinod [OG] 16, Vibin Thomas 53, V. K. Afdal 63, 75) bt Andhra Pradesh 0.

Friday’s matches: Group A: Pondicherry vs. Karnataka, 1:15 p.m.; Telangana vs. Services, 4 p.m.

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