Former international Mohammed Rafi fired a hat-trick as Maharashtra came from behind to beat Jharkhand 4-1 in a Group B quarterfinal league encounter of the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship at Lal Bahadur stadium here on Friday.

In another group match, a plucky Goan side held last year’s runner-up Tamil Nadu to a goalless draw.

Jharkhand rattled the former champion with a fifth minute strike from Bosen Murmu. Maharashtra quickly recovered from the early jolt with the experienced Mohammed Rafi and N.P. Pradeep having a shy at goal inside the first 15 minutes. But the young Jharkhand defence admirably withstood the pressure.

Then came the incandescent phase in the match when Maharashtra struck thrice within three minutes to virtually kill off the contest.

N.P. Pradeep found Francisco Salin on the right flank with a long ball from the middle.

The midfielder made his way into the box and released an unmarked Rafi, who scored from close range in the 30th minute.

Two minutes later, Francisco fed Rafi from the right, and the latter finished with a powerful shot from the top of the box.

Even before a stunned Jharkhand defence could recover, Maharashtra found its third goal in the very next minute. Francisco again was the provider as he tore through the defence and clipped the ball for an unmarked Lalrempunia to fire in.

Maharashtra had another close look at the rival goal when Sanjenbam Sadananda hit the upright with a header in the 39th minute. Rafi completed his hat-trick soon after the break with a clinical finish from Lalrempunia’s ball.

As the intensity dropped, Jharkhand made a few threatening moves.

However, the closest it came to scoring was when Sanjiv Kumar’s long-ranger brought a good save from Maharashtra ’keeper Rajiv Miryla.

Tamil Nadu held

After being cleared by the court to take part in the match, Tamil Nadu appeared to be weighed down by happenings off the football pitch. It was a day in which it enjoyed the better of the exchanges, but couldn’t translate it into goals. The first half was lively with the Goans keeping pace with their rival.

Tamil Nadu enjoyed its best phase in the last 10 minutes of the first half during which it thrice came close to scoring. Amarudeen blasted wide from close range in the 36th minute after being put in by Jayakumar. In the very next minute, Karthik fluffed an opportunity in front of an open goal. Jayakumar had a header tipped away for a corner as Tamil Nadu ended the first half strongly.

In the 58th minute, again Jayakumar shot just wide off the mark. Goan goalkeeper Melroy Fernandez twice came to his side’s rescue with smart saves. At the other end, the Goans looked threatening, and in the 40th minute Agnel Colaco’s free-kick was smartly saved by Tamil Nadu custodian Arun Pradeep. In the end, the Goans managed to salvage a point.

The results: Maharasthra 4 (Rafi 30, 32, 46, Lalrempunia 33) bt Jharkhand 1 (Bosen Murmu 5); Tamil Nadu 0 drew with Goa 0.

Saturday’s matches: Group D: Manipur vs Punjab; West Bengal vs Karnataka.

Keywords: Santosh Trophy

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