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Asharudeen struck twice to guide Kerala to a dominating 4-1 win over Mizoram in the final round of the Group “A” league match and enter the semi-finals of the 71st Santosh Trophy at Tilak Stadium.
Besides substitute Asharudeen (64th min, 84th), Jobby Justin (7th), Seesan S (9th) also scored for Kerala to move to the top of the table with seven points from three matches.
Kerala could have won by a bigger margin had their strikers not missed clear chances, particularly, Justin who missed three clear chances.
Mizoram, who was at the receiving end, pulled one back in the 86th minute through substitute Lalrammawia Rammawia.
Kerala became the second team after West Bengal to qualify for the semi-finals, while Mizoram remained on third place with 4 points from three matches.
Kerala played an attacking game and were in command from the start with Justin and Sahal Abdul Samad combining well putting the rival defence under pressure as Kerala scored two early goals in a span of two minutes.
Justin, who scored a hatrick against Railway, put his team up in the 7th minute with a precise header off a free kick taken from the right by Sree Rag VV.
Two minutes latter, Jishnu Bala Krishnan took a shot at the goal which deflected a rival defender and came to Seesan S who volleyed home from outside the box to give Kerala a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Kerala kept up the pressure and Justin had a glorious chance to enhance the lead in the 24th minute but he failed to direct the ball into the net with only keeper to beat off a pass from the left. Latter in the dying minute before the interval he again failed to score from close.
Mizoram’s chance to put up a fight ended when Lalfakzuala Fakzuala got his second yellow card in the 27th munute for abusing referee Crystal John.
Kerala, who had the match under their command, slackened the pace towards the end of the first half and Mizoram nearly scored when Lalrammuanpuia’s shot from inside the box hit the bar off a flag kick taken by Ramfangzauva from the right.
Kerala continued in the same vein after resumption and Justin had two clear chance to score but he failed to guide the ball into the net and was latter replaced by Usman P.
Substitute Asharudeen then made it 3-0 in the 64th minute when he raced down the box off a pass from substitute Usman P and after beating keeper Lalruaipuia directed the ball into the net with an angular drive.
Asharudeen than rounded off the tally in the 84th minute off a pass from Mohammed Parakkottil to complete the rout.
Mizoram than pulled one back in the 86th minute through substitute Lalrammawia.