There were no opening match blues for former champions Kerala as they scored a comfortable 4-2 win against Railways in a Group B encounter at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim. Jobby Justin was the star of the show for Kerala scoring a fine hattrick- the first of the tournament.
Playing a compact 4-4-2 formation with plenty of attacking play via the wings, Kerala regularly troubled the Railways defenders who were time and again caught napping. Railways had no answer to Kerala’s attacking prowess, and even though they scored the opener, conceding goals at regular intervals hurt them badly as they suffered their second straight loss of the campaign.
Services, surprisingly drew first blood in the 17th minute, when a defensive lapse in the Kerala half allowed Rajesh Soosanyakam to score his first goal of the game and second of the tournament. Kerala though immediately got back to business and found the equaliser four minutes later when a delightful cross by Nishon Xavier from the right found Joby Justin who buried it in the goal through a fine header. Joby scored his second of the evening just before half time with a fine free kick that beat the Railways keeper Akhil Kumar all ends up. Kerala went into the lemon break with a 2-1 lead.
Kerala started the second half in the same way they ended it, Jobby Justin securing his hattrick in the 63rd minute after he scored from his head, yet again, through a corner. Things got more comfortable for the South Indian side in the 71st minute when captain Usman P scored from a cross from Jishnu Bala Krishnan to give Kerala a 4-1 lead with just 15 minutes to play. There was some consolation for Services right at the end though when Rajesh Soosanyakam, completed his brace after he beat the offiside trap off a free kick and slotted the ball home. Soosanayakam took his goal tally to three in the tournament joint highest with kerala striker Jobby Justin.
Meanwhile at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Punjab and Mizoram played out a goalless draw that did both of their chances no harm. Mizoram playing their first game in the tournament would have been happy with a point in their first game while for Punjab, after a win in their opening game, a draw in this game consolidated second place in the group and they remain in contention for a semi-final berth.
Fixtures for 16-03-2017:
Services v Chandigarh at Tilak Maidan, Vasco 1600 hours
Goa v Bengal, GMC Stadium, Bambolim, 1600 hours.