Kerala’s football fans appear to have given up on the Santosh Trophy even before the start here.

The 67th National championship’s Kochi leg kicked off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday evening but there were less than a thousand fans to watch the action.

The match too had a dull start with few interesting moves. Goa, a former five-time champion which has nearly a hundred players in action in the I-League, defeated Chhattisgarh 2-1 in a qualifying round I Group ‘D’ game that warmed up only in the second session.

After a listless first half, Goa found the net through Inacio Colaco (63rd min) and Velito D’cruz (68th) and Chhattisgarh’s Ram Ishwar Mahato reduced the margin in the injury time.

Goa took time to settle down. But once it did, in the second session, it was a constant threat to its rival. Perryson Rebello initiated a lot of smart moves on the left flank and kept Agnelo Colaco busy with a steady stream of passes.

Agnelo, who had shot straight to the goalkeeper early in the game, kept the Chhattisgarh defence under pressure all through the second half.

But it was Colaco who gave Goa the lead. Taking off on a sudden run down the middle, he danced past a couple of defenders, moved to the right and shot from the top of the box. The shot deflected off a defender’s leg and went in. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh, a bit distracted by the deflection, could do nothing.

Velito increased the lead five minutes later. And Agnelo looked good to increase the margin a few minutes later after Joe Rodrigues sent him a back pass just outside the box. But he messed up the chance.

Chhattisgarh substitute Ram Ishwar Mahato found the net in a goalmouth melee towards the end of the game.

Earlier, Chhattisgarh had a good chance to grab the lead in the 41st minute. With the Goan goalkeeper Melroy Fernandes out of position, Bhoj Raj Chandrawanshi had an open goal in front of him. But defender Wellington Fernandes rushed in from the right and headed out the danger in the nick of time.

The result: Group D: Goa 2 (Inacio Colaco 63, Velito D’cruz 68) bt Chhattisgarh 1 (Ram Ishwar Mahato 90+1).


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