Santosh Trophy: Kerala plays out another draw; Telangana stuns Services

Kerala’s dream of making the grade looked good as over as a resilient Pondicherry fought all the way for a goalless draw in the South Zone qualifiers.

Telangana's Shafique Mohammad (5) in action during a Santosh Trophy match against Services.   -  Rayan Rozario

Defending champion Kerala’s dream of making the grade looked good as over in the morning as a resilient Pondicherry fought all the way for a goalless draw in the South Zone qualifiers of the 73rd Santosh Trophy at the Bharathi Stadium here on Wednesday.

With two points from as many matches, Kerala had to wait for the outcome of the Services versus Telangana clash, played later in the day, to stay in contention. It was the latter who registered a 2-1 win over the former to throw open the group.

What went wrong for Kerala? It did everything right in both attack and defence but lacked the finishing skills. The passes were perfect, crisp and clean, and the men in front, after marching forward comfortably, failed to fire.

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Almost half a dozen scoring chances went begging for the team. Kerala played the 4-4-2 formation in the first session but it went a bit awry. The Pondicherry boys should also be appreciated for handling the pressure situation in a smart manner. They did not crumble and instead stood strong right through.

The team did not believe in those short passes but took the aerial route. It did disturb the calculations of the Kerala defenders, who struggled a bit.

The second half saw Kerala play a 3-3-4 pattern. The idea was to strengthen its attack and even that failed to fetch any result till the end.

Telangana boys on a roll

Telangana, on the other hand, played like a champion side. Nobody gave them a chance as it had the mighty Kerala and the formidable Services in its group. But the team was determined to bring down the best and proved that in great measure with an upset win over Services.

Shaun Campbell shot a beauty, a flick of the head which caught the Services custodian Muhammed Shanoos off guard in the seventh minute. The second was even better, and it came from a 35-yard range. It was Shafique E. Mohammad who shot the stunner and the team rejoiced having taken a 2-0 lead.

Telangana continued to call the shots in the second half but Harikrishna reduced the margin in the dying minutes of the match.

“My boys played really well and everybody fought till the end,” said Shabbir Ali, coach of Telengana.

The results:

Kerala 0 drew with Pondicherry 0.

Telangana 2 (Shaun Campbell 7, Shafique Mohammad 45) bt Services 1 (Harikrishna 89)

Tomorrow’s match: Tamil Nadu vs Karnataka, 3 p.m.

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