Travancore Titanium became the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the SBT G.V. Raja all-India football tournament at the University Stadium on Saturday.
Leading 3-0 at half-time, Titanium withstood a spirited fight back from CRPF (Jalandhar) in the second half before managing to win 3-2 in a nail-biting contest.
The third successive win enabled Titanium to top the pool ‘B’ with nine points and enter the last-four stage.
Titanium goalkeeper Fernandez punched away a penalty by CRPF’s Jinto Boro in injury time to snatch the win for his side.
But even a draw would have helped Titanium advance.
In hindsight, it was CRPF goalkeeper S.D. Shyam’s blunders — which resulted in the opening and third goals for Titanium — that cost the visitor dear.
The Thiruvanthapuram side drew first blood in the third minute.
The shot was a speculative long ranger with no real power from Aneesh and goalkeeper Shyam didn’t even attempt to save the ball as it rolled into the far post.
The second goal came off a fast break in the 36th minute when a long clearance saw Vinod tear down the left flank but his attempt was punched away by Shyam.
However, Antony scored off the rebound.
Shyam gifted the third goal to Titanium when he found himself hopelessly out of position as Tommy Antony headed in a cross from the right flank.
CRPF attacked with gusto in the second half and reduced the margin in the 50th minute when substitute Varinder volleyed home from 20 yards.
Titanium made the mistake of trying to hold on to the lead and surrendered the initiative.
CRPF’s sustained aggression yielded result as Amumacha Singh nodded in the second goal off a corner in the 73rd minute.
Varinder was a tad unlucky as his long-ranger ricocheted off the bar in the 78th minute. CPRF finally got a chance to snatch the deserved equaliser when it earned a penalty in the injury time. But, Titanium custodian Fernandez did well to save the shot taken by Jinto Boro
Earlier, Indian Navy trounced South Eastern Railway 5-0 in a pool ‘A’ match. B. Riyad set the trend with a fifth minute strike. P. Suresh Babu increased the lead in the 26th minute.
Substitute Pawandeep Singh converted a cross from Wajid Shaikh in the 58th minute to make it 3-0.
Wajid entered the scorers list by giving finishing touches to a fine cross from Mayanak Pandey in the 71st minute.
Pawandeep Singh capped a fine day by foxing four defenders inside the box and his reverse pass was tapped in by Ajay Kumar in the 87th minute for the fifth goal.