Santosh Trophy: Kerala, Bengal off to flying starts

Kerala made a flying start to its campaign in the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy, drubbing Chandigarh 5-1 in its Group-A league match at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Monday.

Bengal's Sumit Das (20) celebrates after scoring one of the goals against Manipur.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Kerala made a flying start to its campaign in the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy, drubbing Chandigarh 5-1 in its Group-A league match at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Monday. In the other match of the same group, defending champion Bengal outclassed former champion Manipur 3-0 at the Howrah Municipal Corporation Stadium.

For five-time champion Kerala young Jithin M.S. scored twice while Sajith Poulose, Afdal V.K. and Sreekuttan V.S. fired a goal each to complete the tally. Vishal Sharma put up the lone reply for Chandigarh. In the other match of the same group, Sumit Das struck twice while Bidyasagar Singh was on target once to help Bengal make short work of Manipur.

Playing in the traditional format with a two-man attack, Kerala got in the scoring job early as Jithin, who made it to the side through the under-21 quota, converted a through-pass from Seesan S.  Continuing its dominance in the match, Kerala doubled the lead in 18th minute when Sajith Poulose found the target making the most of a nice cross from Jithin.

The Southern powerhouse mobilised the flanks well and kept Chandigarh busy in defending for most part of the action. The first session gave Kerala quite a few scoring opportunities but it was after the break that the floodgates opened up. Kerala made it 3-0 by the 49th minute when Jithin set up striker Afdal with another good assist and the latter did not have any problem in locating the target.

Kerala piled on Chandigarh’s misery as Jithin scored his second and the team’s fourth in the 51st minute. Substitute Sreekuttan V.S, completed the scoring process for Kerala in the 77th minute seeing his snap attempt going in after hitting the post. Chandigarh got a consolation goal two minutes from time when Vishal Sharma got his attempt home.

Bengal got an early lead when Sumit Das found the net in the seventh minute after captain Jiten Murmu’s header on a Tirthankar Sarkar corner came off the crosspiece. Murmu had another chance to double the lead in the 10th minute but the Manipur goalkeeper Dinakumar Singh save the former’s attempt. The host doubled its tally in the 15th minute Das guided home a pass from his upfront colleague Bidyasagar Singh.

Manipur tried to get back in the match but found the Bengal Ranajit Majumder invincible on at least three occasions. Bengal completed the scoring process late in the in the 82nd minute when Bidyasagar found the target off a nice volley.

The results

Kerala 5 (Jithin M.S 11, 51, Sajith Poulose 18, Afdal V.K. 49, Sreekuttan 77) bt Chandigarh 1 (Vishal Sharma 88). Bengal 3 (Sumit Das 7, 15, Bidyasagar Singh 82) bt Manipur 0.

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