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Maharashtra keep challenge alive, Kerala romp into semis

Story: the goan I network | 20th March 2017, 05:01 Hrs

Maharashtra kept their semi-finals hopes alive with a hard fought 1-0 win against Punjab in a Group B encounter of the 71st Santosh Trophy at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Sunday.


Panaji

Maharashtra looked the more intent of the two teams right from the start with several penetrating runs, good individual play and crisp passing, that left Punjab high and dry in several occasions. Maharashtra had their first real chance soon after kick-off when former Air India man Vijith Shetty shot just wide of the goal post. Their best chance though came when Rahul Das laid the ball on a platter for Abhishek Ambekar but he shot wide with only the goalkeeper 
to beat. 
The second half saw the pendulum swing totally in favour of Maharashtra and it was only a matter of time before Vijith Shetty put them ahead. A brilliant square ball from Aaron D’Costa found Vijit Shetty in acres of space inside the box. He neatly turned one defender and shot right in the top corner leaving Punjab keeper Paramjit Singh with absolutely no chance of making a save. 
Just four minutes after Maharashtra went ahead, with twenty three odd minutes left on the clock, Punjab had their best chance to equalise when a brilliant cross from Amandeep Singh on the right found an unmarked Harpal Singh. He however tried to smash in a volley first time, and his weak shot was easily saved by the keeper. That was the closest Punjab would get as Maharashtra kept raiding their defence. 
At the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Kerala became the second team to qualify for the semi-finals after Bengal when they scored a comfortable 4-1 win over Mizoram. 
Jobby Justin became the top scorer of the tournament taking his tally to four goals when he gave the Southerners the lead in the seventh minute. Two minutes later, Seesant S doubled Kerala’s lead to give them a 2-0 lead going into the lemon break. 
Mizoram then went a man down in the 27th minute when Lalfakzuala Fakzuala received his second booking for a reckless challenge. The numerical disadvantage took its toll in the second half as Kerala ran riot. A brilliant brace by substitute Asharuddin gave Kerala a more than comfortable lead and a boost to their goal difference. Mizoram pulled one back four minutes before the regulation time when Lalrammawia Rammawia found the back of the net. Mizoram though still have a chance to join Kerala and make it to the semis if they beat Railways in their final match in two 
days’ time. 

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