“Play as though you are in the final,” was coach A.M. Sreedharan’s advice and the Kerala lads did not disappoint. The last year’s runner-up beat a fighting Andhra Pradesh 3-1 for its first win in two matches in the south zone leg of the Santosh Trophy national championship here on Tuesday.

P. Usman (2) and R. Kannan were the scorers for Kerala while Syed Khaleel’s header for the loser lent a spark to the contest. Khaleel’s goal came from a throw-in which could easily have been mistaken for a perfect free-kick.

Such was the length and direction of the throw by Tatam Naidu that the ball was delivered right to the goal mouth. In that crowded defence, Khaleel rose high and thudded the ball in to bring the sparse gathering to life. Naidu too became an instant hit with the crowd.

After the loss to Tamil Nadu on the opening day, it was a must-win match for Kerala. The stakes only sharpened its approach and much credit for that should go to Usman and Kannan in the front and the lovely little player Prasoon on the left. Any defence would have found the way he chipped in crosses quite unsettling.

Playing their hearts out

Andhra had in its ranks two tough players, Naidu and Kahdheer Khan, who played their hearts out. Inspired by them was goalkeeper Raji Naidu.

Gibsun Justus was the provider for the first goal in the 33rd minute. Usman powered his way in to meet his low cross and score.

Four minutes past half-time, Kannan slotted in the ball in his second attempt. Then came Khaleel’s class act. The pace grew and the cheers too.

In between Raji came up with two outstanding saves before succumbing to Kannan’s cross and Usman’s brilliant finish (71st).

Earlier, lowly Andaman and Nicobar went down by a dozen goals to Karnataka. Even the Karnataka players seemed to lose interest and towards the end they played the ball among themselves rather than embarrass the islanders further.

With two big losses, Andaman and Nicobar has nothing to look ahead to while Karnataka could not have asked for a better first outing.

After a day’s rest the competition resumes on Thursday.

The results: Kerala 3 (P. Usman 2, R. Kannan) bt Andhra 1 (Syed Khaleel); Karnataka 12 (Ngurneilal 3, Don Bosco 3, Stephen 2, Anto Xavier 2, Xavier Vijaykumar and Gopi Kannan) bt Andaman and Nicobar 0.

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