Santosh Trophy
Necio brace powers Goa to victory over Kerala
23 Feb 2024

AIFF Media Team

YUPIA, ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Striker Necio Fernandes netted once in each half as Goa beat Kerala 2-0 in their second Group A match of the 77th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy Final Round at the Golden Jubilee Stadium in Yupia on Friday, February 23, 2024.

With the win, Goa moved to second on the table with four points, two behind leaders Services, who beat Arunachal Pradesh earlier in the day. Having failed to build on to their 3-1 win over Assam on the opening day, Kerala dropped to third place with three points. It was the second time Goa got the better of Kerala this season after a 1-0 group stage win in Benaulim back in October.

Kerala were the ones to get off the blocks quicker and almost made a crisp start when Abdu Raheem K, who opened the scoring in the previous win over Assam, hit the post with a header in the third minute. It was skipper Nijo Gilbert's cross which set up that chance, and he remained the focal figure of Kerala's attacks until an unfortunate hamstring injury in the 21st minute meant that he had to be stretchered out and replaced by Akbar Sidhique.

Unlike in their thrilling 3-3 draw with Arunachal Pradesh in the opener, Goa took things slowly and steadily at the start and gradually grew in confidence as the game progressed. There was a stroke of luck involved in their opening goal in the 44th minute as a loose ball fell kindly onto the path of Necio Fernandes who had no one but goalkeeper Sidharth R Nair to beat, and he did so with ease.

The second half panned out similarly. Despite Kerala launching wave after wave of attacks, a lapse of concentration in defence caused Necio to capitalise yet again and seal the win for Goa. In the 58th minute, a diagonal ball from Shridharnath Gawas beat the Kerala offside trap and picked out Laximanrao Rane, who could not believe his luck with the free space he had around him. With a quick touch, he deceived Sidharth and passed the ball to Necio, who slipped it into the empty net for his third goal in two games.

Kerala spent the remaining half an hour pushing hard to get something from the game. Abdu Raheem had a couple of good opportunities - first, his powerful left-footed strike from outside the box was palmed away by Antonio Inacio da Silva, and then he flicked a header wide after an inviting cross from Riswanali Edakkavil. The substitute created another fine chance with a looping cross in the 78th minute but Sajeesh E could only find the side netting from six yards out as Goa held on for the clean sheet.

Services make short work of Arunachal Pradesh
Services made it two wins in two games as they thrashed the hosts 4-0 in the morning kick-off. Tournament joint top-scorer Samir Murmu's rifling strike in the 11th minute and a counter-attack finished by Vijay J in the 23rd minute put Services in firm control early on. Skipper Bikash Thapa added two more in the 52nd and 56th minute, first delicately chipping goalkeeper Jagom Loyi, then capitalising on a cheap giveaway by Arunachal in their own box.

10-men Assam edge past Meghalaya
Last year's finalists Meghalaya's woes continued as they succumbed to their second straight defeat. Assam, who played the majority of the second half with ten men after goalkeeper Birkhang Daimary was sent off, held on for a 2-1 victory. Assam captain Milan Basumatary was fortunate to open the scoring in the 8th minute after goalkeeper Lionel Daryl Rymmei's clearance deflected off him and went into the goal. Sheen Stevenson Sohktung equalised for Meghalaya with a low free-kick from just outside the box. But Joydeep Gogoi's composed finish for Assam at the stroke of half-time sealed the points for Assam.

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