Vikas’s brace helps Haryana down Jammu & Kashmir

A bunch of happy faces till the 90th minute, Kerala suddenly grew tense and worried in the injury time. After going on a three-goal spree in a 12-minute spell, host had trundle off with just a 3-2 victory over Uttar Pradesh in the 67th Santosh Trophy National football championship at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday.

This was a game the home side dominated and had the goals to show for it too, for the host led 3-0 till the 43rd minute. And after conceding just one goal, life was comfortable and happy for the home side till UP’s Vivek Singh pierced the Kerala wall and scored through an injury-time free-kick.

Kerala worked its way up nicely through the left flank where defender Johnson and midfielder Vineeth Antony worked in tandem, and the latter came up with a series of crosses for forwards P. Usman and R. Kannan.

But Kerala’s opening goal came after a move through the right. And the home side got a penalty when right half N. Sumesh was brought down by a UP defender. Usman cooly converted it in the 14th minute. Three minutes later, R. Kannan — the hero of the team’s opener — beat the defenders smartly, turned a bit and shot, easily beating the goalkeeper Manjesh Kumar Mishra.

Shibin Lal made it 3-0 after some drama inside the box. As Shibin entered the area through the right, the UP defenders moved in around Kannan. But Shibin had other ideas; he took the shot himself.

But the scene changed dramatically in the injury time in both the halves. UP’s Biru Yadav scored in a goalmouth melee towards the end of the first half and Vivek Singh Karia reduced the margin with a fierce freekick in the 91st minute.

But Kerala had to take the blame for messing up plenty of chances in both the sessions.

Usman had three good chances in the last six minutes. His hard shot hit the left post in the 84th minute and, three minutes later, Usman’s attempt was first blocked by the goalkeeper, and his next shot hit the left post.

Moments before that, Vineeth’s shot kissed the crosspiece and went over while Kannan too was guilty of fluffing quite a few chances in haste and under pressure.

At the other end, the host goalkeeper Jean Christian made quite a few acrobatic saves. He pushed away the danger from the left in the 34th minute from Thushar Chaudhary — or was it Amit Kumar? The chest numbers of the UP players were not clear.

Earlier, in the other Group ‘C’ match, Vikas scored twice in a 13-minute spell as Haryana defeated Jammu and Kashmir 3-1 for its first win in the quarterfinal league.

Vikas’s goals came in the 31st and 44th minutes while Vivek Kumar increased the tally in the 85th.

J&K’s consolation goal was scored by Rohit Kumar in the 34th minute.

Kerala now leads the quarterfinal league’s four-team Group ‘C’ with six points from two wins while UP, which had won a game earlier, and Haryana have three each.

Kerala has a game to go, against Haryana, while UP plays J&K.

The result: Kerala 3 (P. Usman penalty 14th min., R. Kannan 17th, Shibin Lal 26th) bt UP 2 (Biru Yadav 45 + 1, Vivek Singh Kaira 90 + 1).

Haryana 3 (Vikas 31st, 44th, Vivek Kumar 85th min.) bt J&K 1 (Rohit Kumar 34th). Best player: Vikas (Haryana).

Monday’s matches (quarterfinal league, Group A): Railways v Odisha; Services v Madhya Pradesh.

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