Santosh Trophy: Kerala End Arunachal's Quarterfinal Hopes; Services Trounce Assam


(MENAFN- IANS) Itanagar, Feb 28 (IANS) Kerala ended Arunachal Pradesh's hopes of making it to the knockout stage of Santosh Trophy 2023-24, handing them a 2-0 defeat at the Golden Jubilee Stadium, on Wednesday.

Forward Muhammed Ashiq S and substitute Arjun V netted one in each half to win the match for Kerala.

The 2021-22 Santosh Trophy champions thus gave a major boost to their chances of making it to the knockout stages; they now have seven points from four matches.

Arunachal, on the other hand, have just one point from their four matches, with their hopes of making it into the top four positions in Group A going up in flames.

Needing nothing short of a win to keep their chances alive, Arunachal Pradesh began the game with great gusto. Olik Tayeng, on the counter, played a defence-splitting pass to Rahul Singpho, who went through on goal. However, much to the disappointment of the local fans in the stands, the shot went agonisingly wide.

Kerala, after recovering from the initial onslaught, recovered well in the match and looked to penetrate the Arunachal goal on multiple occasions. Naresh B had a very good chance on the counter in the 25th when he broke free on the counter and after cutting inside from the right, had just the Arunachal goalkeeper to beat, but poked his effort wide.

Jithin G produced a volley from outside the box that was destined for the bottom corner, but it was saved by Arunachal custodian Jagom Loyi, who showed good awareness to palm away the ensuing shot off the rebound from Muhammed Ashiq.

Ashiq, however, redeemed himself minutes later, when he jumped high inside the Arunachal box to nod in a cross by Mohamed Safneed in the 35th minute.

Arjun V doubled Kerala's lead in the 52nd when he ran on to a clearance off a long throw and put it into the net from just inside the Arunachal box.

The hosts came back strongly, looking to reduce the deficit, keeping long bouts of possession as the game wore on. However, they lacked effective penetration in the final third. They ended the game with higher possession, but that did not paint the whole picture. Kerala were well in control of their faculties by the time Arunachal gained proper control of the match, and never looked like they would let one in.

Their last match against Services on March 1 could potentially decide who will make it to the quarterfinals.

Services inch closer to quarterfinal spot

Services took a giant leap towards securing their spot in the quarterfinals of the Santosh Trophy, defeating Assam 2-0 in their Group A match at the Golden Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday. Thingnam Bidhyasagar Singh (44') and P Christopher Kamei (50') scored on either side of the half-time break to hand them a comfortable win.

Kamei's goal, in particular, was a rather unusual one, as it came off an indirect free-kick inside the penalty box after Assam goalkeeper Birkhang Daimary was adjudged to have handled the ball from a back-pass. With the entire Assam team standing on the goal line, Kamei smashed the ball over the array of heads to bulge the top netting of the goal.

This result means that Services now stand on nine points from four games, while it puts somewhat of a dent in Assam's chances, as they remain on six points from as many matches. Assam will have their work cut out against Goa on March 1.

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