Karnataka began its Santosh Trophy final round campaign with a bang by recording a come-from-behind 4-1 win over Goa in a Group B match at the Sailen Manna Stadium, Howrah, here on Thursday.
Trailing 0-1 at the half-time, Karnataka held its nerve to pump in four goals in the second half.
If the first period belonged to Goa, which initiated several raids on the left flank and tasted success through Kapil Hoble’s 27th minute header off a beautiful cross from Joaquim Abranches, the second half belonged to Karnataka.
The Karnataka players maintained their composure under pressure and looked organised in their approach. Even after conceding one goal, they did not panic and tried their best to avoid further damage.
The forwards looked to pounce on every opportunity, especially in the second half. One such move fetched the equaliser. Captain Vignesh Gunashekar, who joined the squad early in the morning, received a fine long ball and dashed forward to beat an advancing Goan keeper Agnelo Gomes between the legs in the 54th minute.
The equaliser infused life into the Karnataka side which put more pressure on the Goan goal. The hardworking S. Rajesh gave his side the lead through a spectacular goal.
The bearded striker banked on a clearance to launch a superb counter-attack. He ran solo for more than 30 yards before beating Gomes convincingly at about the hour mark.
Sooner than later, Liton Shil’s brilliant effort from the left resulted in Karnataka’s third goal, the ball rolling in from defender Mathew Gonsalves’ feet.
With the Goan defence falling apart and its forwards missing sitters, including a few by captain Victorino Fernandes, the Armando Colaco-coached side lost control over the proceedings.
Karnataka took advantage of the situation to inflate its lead. Leon Augustine utilised a lovely pass from Vignesh to score the fourth goal.
“We hardly had three days to prepare. Some of the players were playing different tournaments and joined very late. The boys kept their cool and fought back well,” said Karnataka coach P. Muralidharan.
The big-margin defeat dealt a major blow to Goa’s chances of making it to the semifinals. Goa had lost 3-1 to Mizoram in its first match on Tuesday.
Mizoram banked on Lalromawia’s brace to outplay Odisha 5-0 in another Group B engagement at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium. This was Mizoram’s second victory in the trot.
Karnataka 4 (Vignesh Gunashekar 54; S. Rajesh 61; Mathew Gonsalves 69-OG; Leon Augustine 89) bt Goa 1 (Kapil Hoble 27).; Mizoram 5 (Lalbiakhlua 37; Lalromawia 41, 59; Malsawmdawng 73; F. Lalrinpuia 91) bt Odisha 0.
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