Keeps its semifinal hopes alive with goals from Sanath and Nabeel
CHENNAI: Karnataka kept its hopes of a semifinal berth alive with a 2-0 win over an uninspired Maharashtra in a Group ‘B’ quarterfinal league match of the Santosh Trophy National football championship at the Nehru stadium on Friday.
With two defeats in the three-match league, Maharashtra is virtually out of the championship while Karnataka, after its draw against Goa, took its points tally to four. For a team that was impressive in the cluster phase in Coimbatore, the Chennai leg has been nothing short of a nightmare.
No sign of regrouping
There was little to suggest that the team had re-grouped after its first match loss to Services the other day; its performance on Friday was abysmal.
Neither was the forward line penetrative nor the midfield resourceful.
The decision to move Kuttymani Sampath Kumar to the midfield meant there was no one threatening up front. Sampath Kumar had shown promise earlier with his positioning and ability to confuse the rival with his off-the-ball runs. Paresh Shivalkar, Zahid Ansari (substituted later) and Asim Hassan never seemed to trouble the Karnataka defence which gave little away.
With C. Prakash doing the playmaking in the company of skipper Xavier Vijayakumar — who also doubled up as a striker — Karnataka began on a slow note, with the energy-sapping weather calling for careful adapting. But the team seemed to be working well, with near accurate passing and frequent variations in progressing with the ball.
The aerial ball was used judiciously and the high crosses often created the kind of situations in which strikers thrive. J. Sathish and Sanath Kumar had some lively runs before the latter broke free in the 25th minute and calmly slotted in, with just the goalkeeper Arup Debnath to beat.
All that Maharashtra could do was produce some jerky long balls that either failed to take the intended flight or sailed away harmlessly. Rarely could it put together a purposeful foray.
Much of the second session meandered with one team unable to find the rhythm and other looking for the best ways to keep the lead.
As it happened, Karnataka could consolidate thanks to a break away move that brought the ball at the feet of substitute Dada Nabeel who turned around and got past Anas and Sanjay before swinging a right-footer into the net.
There could have been one more from Nabeel almost at the final whistle but his righted effort off Xavier’s pass was headed out of harm’s way by Anas.