Jharkhand survived a second half resurgence from Gujarat to win their Cluster ‘A’ match 3-2 in the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship at the Lal Bahadur stadium on Wednesday.

In another match of the same cluster, Chandigarh overcame Nagaland 3-1 after leading 1-0 at half-time. Sourav Routella (25th), Pawandeep Singh (60th) and Rajan Negi (66th) were the scorers for Chandigarh while Tingnyek Konyak reduced the margin for Nagaland in the 73rd minute.

Gujarat enlivened a dull match by scoring twice in the space of nine minutes. But, Jharkhand woke up from its slumber and defended stoutly to thwart its opponent.

Jharkhand, with a majority of its players from the famed Tata Football Academy, was a big disappointment and the goals came through some sloppy defending from Gujarat rather than any brilliant moves on its part.

Energetic

In fact, it was Gujarat which showed creativity in the midfield. Depesh Pun and Aamir Khan Pathan were energetic on the field and created opportunities for the strikers, but wayward finishing proved to be its bane. It turned out to be the norm for Gujarat in the first half as it struggled to get a decent crack at the rival post.

Jharkhand, on the other hand, cashed in on the chances that came its way and the early match blues saw some comic defending by Gujarat. Bosen Murmu scored in the 11th minute as Suraj crossed from the right. The ball was missed by two Jharkhand players and came to the unmarked Murmu, who made no mistake.

In the 15th minute, Pathan received a through ball from Pun but shot wide when he had only the goalkeeper to beat. Gujarat had another gilt-edged chance in the 30th minute when a set piece caught the Jharkhand goalkeeper napping. Pathan, standing among the Jharkhand wall, deftly flicked on a Pun free kick but the ball beat goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh and ricocheted off the bar.

Ironically, the second Jharkhand goal came when Gujarat was calling the shots. A counterattack saw Ramesh Kujur drill a low shot past the goalkeeper after receiving a cross from Biswajith Sardar in the 53rd minute. A rout appeared on the cards when Biswajith Sardar headed home the third goal off a Sanjeev Kumar cross in the 62nd minute. However, Pathan and Pun had other ideas as they scored in the 65th and 74th minutes respectively to pull their side back into the match.

However, Jharkhand shrugged off its complacency in the nick of time, plugging holes in its defence.

Flattering to deceive

Nagaland started promisingly but faded out soon as Chandigarh took control of the midfield. During its period of domination, Nagaland had a goal disallowed for off-side and the ball hit the bar once. But, there was no chance for Nagaland once Chandigarh began to assert itself.

Had the strikers been sharper, Chandigarh would have won by a bigger margin. The Nagaland goal survived a few close shaves before Sourav Routella brilliantly beat two defenders to put his team ahead in the 25th minute.

Chandigarh dominated the second half which started ominously for Nagaland, but goalkeeper Peisuidibe brought off a brilliant save to deny Saurav. Pawandeep Singh curled home a free kick from just out of the box to make it 2-0 in the 60th minute before Rajan Negi widened the margin in the 66th minute.

Tingnyek Konyak found the consolation goal for Nagaland in the 73rd minute with a stunning long-ranger.

The results:

Jharkhand 3 (Bosen Murmu 11, Ramesh Kujur 53, Biswajith Sardar 62) bt Gujarat 2 (Aamir Khan Pathan 65, Depesh Pun 74).

Chandigarh 3 (Sourav Routella 25, Pawandeep Singh 60, Rajan Negi 66) bt Nagaland 1 (Tingnyek Konyak 73).

Thursday’s matches: Cluster ‘B’: Bihar vs Himachal; Daman & Diu vs Arunachal.

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