Tamil Nadu edges Andhra Pradesh with Nagappan scoring winner

Vijay Nagappan scored the winner for Tamil Nadu, handing Andhra its second successive defeat.

Tamil Nadu's Ajith Kumar in action against Andhra in Santosh Trophy.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN

Tamil Nadu opened its Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers campaign with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Andhra Pradesh, at Bangalore Football Stadium here on Saturday.

The Tamil Nadu players, who were not comfortable on the artificial turf surface used here, found it tough to get into the groove. Andhra Pradesh made its opponents task harder by employing a heavily defensive approach. A determined Andhra Pradesh put on a much improved show, after the 0-7 whipping it received at the hands of Kerala on Thursday.

Tamil Nadu found the opening in the 57th-minute, when a cross resulted in a hectic goalmouth scramble. The Andhra defenders failed to make a clearance, allowing Vijay Nagappan to poke the ball in.

Read: Karnataka crushes Telangana 5-0

At the post-match media interaction, Andhra Pradesh coach Zakeer Hussain contested the referee’s decision to award the goal, stating that the ball had gone out of play before the cross was curled in. This claim was rejected by the Tamil Nadu camp.

Andhra Pradesh had the chance to equalise, when striker Kulu Praveen Kumar found himself unmarked in the box. His header, however, was gathered safely by the custodian, M. Manikankan. In the first half, Praveen attempted a fine long-range right-footed effort, but once again, Manikandan was up to the task.

Tamil Nadu coach Rajeev Ponnanthari admitted that his team could do with more bite in the final third. “Credit to Andhra, for holding firm in defence. At certain stages, they had 8-9 players stationed in the box. We could have scored more goals, but overall, I’m satisfied with our performance,” Ponnanthari said.

Tamil Nadu next faces group-topper Kerala on Monday. Tamil Nadu requires a win to book a final round berth. It will not be an easy task. “Yes, Kerala is a strong opponent. We will have to be at our very best, but we are confident that we can defeat them,” Ponnanthari said.

Karnataka, meanwhile, takes on Services in an equally crucial outing here on Sunday. A draw for Karnataka will see the host qualify for the final round, while Services needs three points to make the cut.

The result:

Group ‘B’:

Tamil Nadu 1 (Vijay Nagappan 57’) bt Andhra Pradesh 0.

Sunday’s matches:

Group ‘A’:

Telangana v Pondicherry  (1.15 p.m.), Karnataka v Services (4 p.m.).
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