TIRUCHI: Mizoram ensured a berth in the pre-quarterfinals of the National football championship for the Santosh Trophy, with a 3-0 win over Jammu & Kashmir in the final Cluster III league match here on Thursday. Mizoram topped the cluster with seven points from three games.
Mizoram gained early control over the proceedings on a hot day, when stamina was on more test. Je Je Lalpekhwa was supplied with some excellent passes from both flanks. But he missed at least three sitters within the first 15 minutes.
Kashmir badly missed the services of forward Taufeek (Kashmir’s only scorer in both its earlier encounters), who was suspended for the match after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament against Puducherry.
Kashmir got its first chance at the half-hour mark. Zubair’s pass found an unmarked Sameer Hussain, but his left footer was well saved by the Mizoram custodian.
And the lemon break came in as a relief for both the teams toiling under the hot sun. Mizoram intensified its attack in the second session.
In the 51st minute, Lalmuanpuia, who was all along sending in threatening crosses, netted a goal by himself; his curling cross from the right flank found the target taking the goalkeeper off-guard.
The goal lifted Mizoram and it piled on pressure. A tired-looking Kashmir side suffered a blow when it was reduced to 10-men in the 65th minute, after skipper Imran Rafiq was expelled for his second yellow. Lalpekhwa made it 2-0 in the 75th minute, when he chipped the ball over goalkeeper Vickramjeet Singh. And Lalrochama struck in the 88th minute to settle the issue beyond doubt.
The disappointment for Kashmir, quarterfinalist in the last edition of the Santosh Trophy, got perpetuated as Shahnawaz was sent off for a second yellow card in the 90th minute.
In the other Cluster III engagement earlier in the day, Madhya Pradesh thrashed Puducherry 4-0.
MP opened the scoring on a penalty kick by Krishna Kumar Singh in the 25th minute.
Santosh Rajak, Sonu Rajak and Bhagwan Das scored a goal each to complete the tally.
MP took the second spot in the cluster with five points from three games.
The results: Mizoram 3 (Lalmuanpuia 51, Je Je Lalpekhwa 75, Lalrochama 88) bt Jammu & Kashmir 0; Madhya Pradesh 4 (Krishna Kumar Singh 25, Santosh Rajak 59, Sonu Rajak 63, Bhagwan Das 88) bt Puducherry 0.
Friday’s match: Goa vs. Orissa.