Vasco: Asharudeen struck twice to guide Kerala to a dominating 4-1 win over Mizoram in a Group A league match and enter the semifinals of the 71st Santosh Trophy at Tilak Stadium here on Sunday.
Besides substitute Asharudeen (64th min, 84th), Jobby Justin (7th), Seesan S. (9th) also scored for Kerala, who moved to the top of the table with seven points from three matches.
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Kerala could have won by a bigger margin had their strikers not missed clear chances, particularly, Justin who missed three clear chances.
Kerala became the second team after West Bengal (Group B) to qualify for the semifinals, while Mizoram remained on third place with four points from three matches.
Maharashtra kept their semifinals hopes alive with a hard fought 1-0 win against Punjab in anothr Group B encounter.
Vijith Shetty scored the winner in the second half.
Kerala's aggression pays off
Kerala played an attacking game and were in command from the start with Justin and Sahal Abdul Samad combining well putting the rival defense under pressure as Kerala scored two early goals in a span of two minutes.
Justin, who scored a hat-trick against Railways, put his team ahead in the 7th minute with a precise header off a free-kick taken from the right by Sree Rag V.V.
Two minutes latter, Jishnu Bala Krishnan took a shot at the goal which deflected a rival defender and came to Seesan who volleyed home from outside the box to give Kerala a 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.
Mizoram suffered a big blow when Lalfakzuala Fakzuala got his second yellow card in the 27th minute for abusing referee Crystal John.
Kerala 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.
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 pulled one back in the 86th minute through substitute Lalrammawia.