Kerala outclass Andhra

Junior boys shine in 7-0 thumping in Pool B game

Kerala outclass Andhra

Kerala reaffirmed their status as Pool B favourites after bulldozing Andhra Pradesh 7-0 in their first game of the South Zone qualifiers for the 72nd Santosh Trophy here.

Goals from under-21 midfielder Rahul KP (13th and 49th minutes), striker Afdal VK (63rd and 75th), Sajith Poulose (3rd), Vibin Thomas (53rd) and an own goal from S Vinod (11th) completed the drubbing at the Bangalore Football Stadium.

On a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon Satheevan Balan's wards came out a determined lot, and while the result was an expected one, the sheer dominance of their performance was a spectacle in itself.

It didn't take long for the boys from Kerala to break the deadlock as the lively Jithin MS found an unmarked Sajith in the box and the striker completed a simple tap.

All it took was ten further minutes for the lead to be doubled with Rahul smashing home from close range as a clueless Andhra defence failed to deal with Afdal's cross.

Andhra's nightmarish start got worse three minutes later. Vinod's horrendous attempt to clear a cross found it's way into his own net past a scrambling Siriki Ganesh in goal.

At this point M Zakheer Hussain's side decided to park the bus, ironically turning out in blue kits, in an attempt to avert further disaster and the move paid off as they went into the break without conceding another goal.

But much like the first period, the second began in similar fashion with Kerala scoring three minutes after resumption. A well-worked move saw Sajith release Jithin on the right flank. The winger then smartly cut back for Rahul, whose net buster from the edge of the area left Ganesh a mere spectator.

The Andhra custodian was once again beaten from distance with 52 minutes played. Centre-back Vibin hit a 35-yard strike with power and precision to hand his side a 5-0 lead.

After a short lull, Kerala were at it again with Afdal taking centre-stage. The forward first tucked away a loose ball from within the six-yard box and then deflected Mohammed Shareef's pass with a smart touch from a tight angle at the near post.

The final whistle would have come as a relief to Andhra, who now face a near-impossible task of qualifying for the main tournament.

Balan expressed his delight at how his side had gone out onto the pitch and executed their plans to perfection. "The first match is always key. I'm happy that the boys played according to our plans. The highlight for me was how our junior (under-21) lads impressed in this game," beamed the head coach.

Friday's fixtures: Pool A: Puducherry vs Karnataka (1.15 pm); Telangana vs Services (4 pm).

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