Santosh Trophy: Karnataka makes the cut, TN bows out

Karnataka secures its berth in the main round of the Santosh Trophy with a 1-1 draw against Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu football team (in white) in action in its contest against Karnataka on Thursday. Photo: Rayan Rozario

Karnataka secured its berth in the main round of the Santosh Trophy with a 1-1 draw against Tamil Nadu in the South Zone qualifiers at the Bharathi Stadium here on Thursday. It had defeated Andhra Pradesh 5-0 in its previous contest.

Tamil Nadu went into the contest needing to win, and it planned its moves accordingly. The players sweated it out to try to qualify, but paid the price for lack of experience.

In the first half, Karnataka’s players played with energy and surged forward with ease. Tamil Nadu pressed the accelerator as well midway through, but failed to create an impact. With both teams locked in a tight battle, the first half seemed to be heading towards a goalless scenario. But A. S. Ashik pulled off a surprise with an excellent header in the 39th minute. The defender was swift to cross-head a beautiful cross that came his way. That left Tamil Nadu stumped.

Resurgence

The Tamil Nadu boys looked transformed in the second half. Captain Sasi Kumar lifted the team’s spirit with a booming shot that was timely palmed over the post by Jayanth Kumar, the Karnataka custodian.

The host further piled on the pressure and kept raiding the rival citadel. The ploy worked. T. Vijay, who raced like a hare inside the danger area, was brought down by a defender, and the referee was quick to award a penalty. N. Solaimalai hammered it into the net to get the equaliser. Tamil Nadu kept pressing for what could have been a winning goal, but the visitor hung on till the end.

Manvir Singh of Karnataka and Anurf of Tamil Nadu fight it out. Photo: Rayan Rozario

 

Karnataka’s coach D. Manivannan was happy with the result. “I would have been thrilled if we had gone home with a win. It does not matter because strategy-wise they played a lot better,” he said.

“We had seven U-21 players in the squad and they have to mature a bit in their style of play. There’s enough time to get them in shape for the next round,” he added.

V. Soundarajan, the Tamil Nadu coach, felt his wards played sincerely and brilliantly, but did not have the requisite experience to get the win. “We did not have the key players, [but] despite that they showed lots of courage,” he said.

All four teams in contention in Group B

In Group B, all four teams — Kerala, Services, Telangana and Pondicherry — are in contention for a spot in the next round.

If Telangana defeats Pondicherry on Friday, it qualifies having logged seven points from three matches. The second match between Kerala and Services, then, becomes redundant.

But if the contest ends in a stalemate, the outcome of the Kerala vs. Services clash will determine the qualification scenario. If Services ousts Kerala, it qualifies automatically with six points and, if it goes the other way, Kerala and Telangana will have five points apiece.

Pondicherry also has an outside chance of qualifying if it beats Telangana by a big margin and the day’s second match ends in a draw. It will be a three-way tie, then, between Services, Telangana and Pondicherry, with four points apiece.

In case two teams are tied on points, the goal difference and then the head-to-head will determine the qualifier.

The result
  • Karnataka 1 (A. S. Ashik 39) drew with Tamil Nadu 1 (N. Solaimalai 74).

Friday’s match
  • Telangana vs Pondicherry, 9 a.m.;
  • Services vs. Kerala.

  Dugout videos