Uttar Pradesh defeats Haryana 2-1

Just about 10 days ago R. Kannan was a picture of dismay as he fluffed plenty of chances in a warm-up game against a talented college team.

On Friday, the Kerala striker returned a hero, pumping in two fine goals as host Kerala opened its campaign with a 2-0 victory over Jammu and Kashmir in the 67th Santosh Trophy National football championship at the Nehru Stadium here.

A crowd of about 6,000 turned up to watch the home team — the biggest in the championship so far — and though the game did not rise to any great levels in terms of touch and finesse, Kannan’s twin goals brought a lot of cheer. Kerala looked hungry right from the start; there was a rush towards goal soon after kick-off with Usman and Kannan working in tandem, but the effort was flagged for offside.

Lack of rhythm

The home side dominated proceedings despite misplaced passes and a lack of rhythm to its play.

“They are yet to settle down, and seem to be under a bit of pressure,” said I.M. Vijayan, Kerala’s brightest football gem. “Well, this is just the beginning; they will get better with every match.”

Kannan took off for the opening goal in the 37th minute, collecting a lovely cross from Johnson from the left. He charged into the box and shot a left-footer into the far corner of the net. The J&K goalkeeper Vikramjit Singh was just a sad spectator.

The goal lifted the spirits of the host. Kannan could have made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later, but shot wide.

Moments later, Usman almost headed in a long ball from midfielder K. Saleel, but Vikramjit was equal to the task.

Kerala eventually made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute. Usman appeared well placed, but found the angle hard to score from as the goalkeeper advanced. A moment’s hesitation, though, saw Kannan rush in from the right and bang the ball in.

In between, there was a nice one-two between Sumesh and Shibin Lal that beat the defence all ends up, but the latter failed to connect properly.

The Kerala defence, on the other hand, was manned admirably by Surjith, Sajith, Sherin Sam and Johnson.

Meanwhile, the J&K players — dressed in light blue — left many confused as the chest numbers were not visible over their sweaty shirts.

Ballu excels

Earlier, Ballu Varma scored twice as Uttar Pradesh defeated Haryana 2-1 to post its first win in Group C.

The UP forward scored once in each half — in the 8th and 73rd minute — while Vikas reduced the margin for Haryana in the 58th.

Ballu’s opener came from a long pass. He had enough space and time to score with a solid left-footer.

Harayana’s equaliser came in the 58th minute. Abhishek, who had plenty of chances in the game, made amends by delivering a lovely cross to Vikas, who dismissed it into the back of the net with a perfect left-footer. A series of short passes inside the box, from left to right, saw UP regain the lead in the 72nd minute. And it was Ballu once again. He dodged a defender to tap the ball in.

The results (quarterfinal league): Group C: Kerala 2 (R. Kannan 37, 63) bt J&K 0; Man-of-the-Match: T. Sajith (Ker); UP 2 (Ballu Varma 8 & 73) bt Haryana 1 (Vikas 58); Man-of-the-Match: Ballu Varma (UP).

Saturday’s matches (Group A): Services vs Railways; Odisha vs Madhya Pradesh.

Keywords: Santosh Trophy

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