Crushes Nagaland to top Cluster ‘A’

Jharkhand topped Cluster ‘A’ to qualify for the quarterfinal league of the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here on Sunday.

Jharkhand exploded in the second half to crush Nagaland 5-1 to finish its engagements with seven points. Chandigarh also ended up with seven points but Jharkhand topped the cluster for having scored more goals than Chandigarh. Gujarat did Jharkhand a favour by restricting Chandigarh to a 3-1 win.

In-form striker Biswajit Sardar (33rd, 81st) struck a brace while S. Ramesh Kujur (49th), Bosen Murmu (67th) and Jarmanjeet Singh (69th) scored for Jharkhand. Captain Kivi Sumi converted a penalty in the 52nd minute and briefly raised visions of a Nagaland fightback.

Needing a big win to cement a place in quarterfinals, Jharkhand started in earnest. It earned a string of corners in the initial minutes but the Nagaland defence stood firm.

Sumi strove manfully in the midfield and along with Christopher Kamei was able to harry the Jharkhand defenders.

Fading out

But Nagaland faded out as Jharkhand began asserting itself in the midfield.

The sustained pressure from Jharkhand finally saw Biswajit Sardar nod the first goal in off a cross from Bosen Murmu.

Jharkhand added another in the 49th as Ramesh Kujur slipped the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper after the Nagaland defence was split open by a fast break.

Nagaland reduced the margin through Sumi who converted a penalty which was awarded when Velukho Rakho was brought down inside the box.

Jharkhand then went into an attack mode and an overlapping Murmu only had to give finishing touches to a fine pass from Biswajit Sardar in the 67th.

Two minutes later, captain Jarmanjeet Singh headed in the fourth goal. Biswajit Sardar completed the tally with a clinical finish in the 81st following another counter-attack.

Jharkhand’s big win meant that Chandigarh had to beat Gujarat by a five goal margin to advance.

But the side wasted a penalty early in the match and numerous other chances before Rajan Negi, who scored a brace, and Pawandeep Singh struck in the second half.

As Chandigarh surged ahead in search of goals, it was vulnerable to counter attacks which Gujarat managed to do often in the match.

Had the Gujarat strikers been a little sharper inside the box, the outcome of the match would have been different. Substitute Gopal Joshi scored for Gujarat in the 21st minute.

Nothing went right for Chandigarh and it was best illustrated by the penalty missed by the normally reliant Pawandeep Singh who shot straight at goalkeeper Geet Vaz.

Thereafter, it was a tale of missed chances for Chandigarh which was equally frustrated by substitute Gujart goalkeeper Prakash Kothwal who made a string of fine saves.

The results: Jharkhand 5 (Biswajit Sardar 33, 81, S. Ramesh Kujur 49, Bosen Murmu 67, Jarmanjeet Singh 69) bt Nagaland 1 (Kivi Sumi 52).

Chandigarh 3 (Rajan Negi 59, 72, Pawandeep SIngh 77) bt Gujarat 1 (Gopal Joshi 66).

Final standings (read as played, won, lost, draw, goals scored, goals against, points): Jharkhand 3-2-0-1-9-4-7; Chandigarh 3-2-0-1-6-3-7; Nagaland 3-1-2-0-6-8-3; Gujarat 3-0-3-0-3-10-0.

Monday’s matches: Cluster ‘B’: Himachal v Daman & Diu; Karnataka v Bihar.

More In: Football | Sport