Karnataka stormed into the quarterfinals of the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship after crushing Bihar 3-0 in a crucial Cluster ‘B’ match at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here on Monday.
Karnataka, which only needed a draw to qualify, struck thrice in the first 30 minutes and turned the key clash against Bihar into a one-sided affair.
Karnataka topped cluster ‘B’ with an all-win record and scored 20 goals from four matches to serve warning to its quarterfinal opponent.
Bihar, which needed to beat Karnataka to qualify, dished out a disappointing fare, and after conceding an early goal, there wasn’t much it could do against a strong rival. Defensive mistakes and lack of penetration upfront proved to be Bihar’s undoing.
Prolific striker S. Rajesh scored for Karnataka from the first threatening it made in the second minute.
Rajesh had beaten goalkeeper Nitesh Kumar with a swivelling shot before even the Bihar defence could sense the danger.
V. Stephen increased the lead in the 12th minute with a clinical finish after muscling his way past two defenders into the penalty box.
In the 21st minute, Amoses beat the off-side trap and coolly placed the ball beyond the goalkeeper’s reach for the third goal.
Bihar goal survived another scare in the 31st minute when Amoses found the upright with a fierce left-footer.
At the fag end of the first-half, Samu Hembrom hit the far post off the first organised move made by Bihar.
Karnataka called the shots early in the second-half but after initial thrust, fell back into defensive mode.
Bihar regrouped to string a few moves and it became threatening only once, but Karnataka goalkeeper Sarath Narayana was alert and came out of his guard to deny Samu in the 66th minute.
Himachal Pradesh came back from behind to defeat Daman & Diu 4-3 to record its first win in the tournament.
In a topsy-turvy match, Himachal Pradesh went up 2-0 through goals from Ganesh Mohan and Vikrant Rana, but horrendous errors by Himachal defence saw Daman score thrice in a span of six minutes. Dhiraj Prakash Mehar, Rahul Bharath and Sachin Kumar Mangela scored as Daman led 3-2 at half-time.
But Kulbir Singh drew level for Himachal by converting a penalty in the 53rd minute. Daman’s Dhiraj Prakash Mehar’s penalty was saved by HP goalkeeper Ranveer Singh in the 60th minute and Vikrant Rana headed in the match-winner off a cross from Nitesh Sharma in the 64th minute.
The quaterfinal matches will begin on February 21 after a break of two days.
Karnataka 3 (S. Rajesh 2, V. Stephen 12, Amoses 21) bt Bihar 0.
Himachal Pradesh 4 (Ganesh Mohan 2, Vikrant Rana 22, 64, Kulbir Singh 53) bt Daman & Diu 3 (Dhiraj Prakash Mehar 28, Rahul Bharath 30, Sachin Kumar Mangela 34).
The final standings (read as played-won-lost-draw-goals for-goals against-points):
Karnataka: 4-4-0-0-20-2-12, Bihar: 4-3-1-0-6-5-9, Himachal Pradesh: 4-1-2-1-7-11-4, Arunachal Pradesh: 4-1-2-1-3-11-4, Daman & Diu: 4-0-4-0-5-13-0.