Friday , April 12 2024

Railways closer to confirming Santosh Trophy knockout ticket!

Railways took a major leap towards qualification for the quarterfinals of Santosh Trophy 2023-24, after defeating defending champions Karnataka 1-0 at the Golden Jubilee Stadium in Itanagar, on Thursday, February 29, 2024.

Subrata Murmu (53’) scored the only goal of the game in the second half, to inflict a defeat on Karnataka that puts their quarterfinal chances in serious jeopardy, as they have only been able to garner two points from four matches.

Railways, on the other hand, stand strong in Group B with seven points from four matches. And a draw against Mizoram in their last game of the group might be enough to secure their ticket to the last eight.

The defending champions were desperate, they needed the three points and played the match similarly. Coached by Ravi Babu Raju, who had led them to the title last season in Riyadh, they began. The match by mounting wave after wave of attacks on the Railways defence, and forward Nikhil Raj Murugesh Kumar came agonizingly close to putting them in the lead just after the quarter-hour mark when he capitalised on some confusion within the Railways defence to get his shot away at an empty goal, but his effort came off the post. Vinith Venkatesh pounced on the rebound, but Railways goalkeeper Anupam Sinha had closed in on him and made a point-blank save.

The Railways defence continued their scramble to keep the scores level, and a little after the half-hour mark, defender Monish Majumder showed great awareness to make back-to-back blocks, first off a back-flick by Nikhil Raj from inside the six-yard box, and then from an effort off the rebound by Vishal R.

Their doggedness at the back finally paid off after the restart, when against the run of play, the Railwaymen took the lead. Goalkeeper Sinha hooved a long one upfield, which was knocked on by a gaggle of heads, as Subrata Murmu ran on to the ball, shrugged off Karnataka centre-back Prabin Tigga, and then proceeded to turn the latter outside, and then in, before flicking the ball into the goal with the outside of his boot.

Karnataka may have been down, but they were not out. Their attacks came in waves, and the Railway defence took a couple of casualties in their efforts to keep the defending champions out. In the dying minutes, captain Goutam Kujur had to be stretchered off after he came off worse in a tackle before goalkeeper Sinha took one for the team while making a save in injury time. Karnataka substitute D Sheltohn Paul struck one from long range, as Sinha backtracked and tipped the ball onto the crossbar and out. In the process, however, Sinha himself collided against the post and went down in a heap.

With just a couple of minutes of injury time left, however, Sinha gingerly carried on, prowling the Railways goal with a slight limp, as his side clinched the three points.

Manipur seal quarterfinal spot

Manipur booked their spot in the Santosh Trophy 2023-24 quarterfinal with a 4-1 win against Mizoram at the Golden Jubilee Stadium.

Philam Sanathoi Meetei netted a brace (35’, 90’) for Manipur, while Leimajam Sangkar Singh (8’) and substitute Pebam Renedy Singh (56’) scored one each. Malsawmzuala Tlangte (84’) pulled one goal back for Mizoram late in the match, but Manipur had already taken a firm grip over the match.

Manipur, thus remain at the top of Group B with 10 points from four matches and are guaranteed a top-four finish in its standings. A draw against Delhi in their last Group B match will be enough to secure the top spot for them.

Mizoram, on the other hand, will have their task cut out on March 2 against Railways, who will also be fighting it out for a better standing in the group.

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