Himachal rallies to earn a draw against Arunachal
Karnataka notched up its second win in the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship with a crushing 4-1 win over Daman & Diu in a cluster ‘B’ match at the Lal Bahadur stadium here on Tuesday.
V. Stephen scored a hat-trick (38, 63 & 81) after Rajesh had put Karnataka ahead in the 24th minute.
But Karnataka’s finishing left a lot to be desired as it wasted plenty of chances and like in its first match against Himachal, it conceded a goal which it shouldn’t have.
Sachin Kumar Mangela pulled one back for Daman & Diu in the 49th minute in a goalmouth melee, following a corner which the Karnataka defence failed to clear.
It was one-way traffic from the start but Karnataka strikers, including the first day’s hat-trick hero Rajesh, Stephen and Amoses were erratic. Daman goalkeeper Pulkit Rajan Mehtra was inconsistent and came out of his guard far too often. Thrice in the first half, the Karnataka strikers managed to slip the ball past the rushing Pulkit only for the ball to miss the target narrowly.
However, Karnataka went ahead in the 24th minute through Rajesh who headed in a corner kick. After missing several opportunities, Karnataka increased the lead in the 38th minute as Stephen got into the goal-scoring act by heading in the second goal off a corner.
A rare counter-attack from Daman resulted in a corner and Sachin whipped the ball into the net following confusion in the Karnataka defence. But that goal was an aberration as Karnataka regrouped and attacked with vigour.
The tale of missed chances continued in the second half as well. Daman goalkeeper Pulkit made few saves and on other occasions, the wayward Karnataka forwards made it easier for him by blasting out.
Stephen saved his side’s blushes as he volleyed home from top of the box after being put in position by Amoses in the 63rd minute. Pulkit could only watch as Stephen buried the ball into the far corner of the net.
He completed his hat-trick in the 81st minute with a similar shot as the ball was relayed to him by substitute V. Vinoth.
In the second match of the evening in cluster ‘B’, a 10-man Himachal Pradesh snatched a late equaliser to draw 2-2 with Arunachal Pradesh.
Kulbir Singh converted a last-minute penalty to bring an end to a tempestuous match which saw Himachal Pradesh's Ganesh Mohan sent out for abusing the referee.
After the match, the Himachal Pradesh players gave vent to their feeling by mockingly clapping at the match officials
Himachal gave a much-improved performance on the field but paid price for defensive errors.
The fleet-footed Arunachal players were creative and had its rivals back-pedalling quite early in the match.
Nguri Alin had the first look at Himachal score with a rasping right footer which beat the goalkeeper but missed the goal narrowly.
Toko Palim’s searing run on the right flank ended with a firm drive which again missed the target narrowly.
Himachal looked dangerous in counters but Arunachal defence, especially the goalkeeper, was equal to the task.
At the fag end of the first half, Himachal Pradesh was penalised as an Arunachal player was brought down inside the box. The resultant penalty was coolly slotted in by Tehi Takan in the 43rd minute.
In the very next minute, Ligang Bagung beat the off-side trap to nod in the second goal after receiving a high ball from the right flank.
Himachal played positively in the second half. Ganesh Mohan was the lynchpin of the attack and he tested the Arunachal goalkeeper early in the second half with a rasping shot which was tipped away.
Himachal continued to attack and in the 75th minute Ganesh Mohan squared a low ball to Chandan Kumar who beat the goalkeeper from close.
The loss of Ganesh Mohan didn’t deter Himachal from attacking and it earned a penalty in the last minute which was converted by Kulbir Singh.
Karnataka 4 (Rajesh 24, V. Stephen 38, 63 & 81) bt Daman & Diu 1 (Sachin Kumar Mangela).
Arunachal Pradesh 2 (Tehi Takan 43, Ligang Bagung 44) drew with Himachal Pradesh 2 (Chandan Kumar 75, Kulbir Singh 90).