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 October 28, 2002 | 2030 IST

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Kerala, Services enter semi-finals

Defending champions Kerala and Services entered the semi-finals of the 58th National Football Championship for the LG Santosh Trophy, winning their respective quarterfinal matches at the Khumen Lampak stadium, Imphal on Tuesday.

Kerala prevailed over a spirited Assam side 3-1, thus relegating Bengal to the second spot in Group-A. Services defeated the Railways 2-0 and qualified for the semi-final by virtue of a better goal average, at the cost of Maharashtra from group B.

The young Assam side forged ahead in the 37th minute when Saran Sonar gave a brilliant pass to the fast moving Sanjiba Rongpi, who netted from close range.

The goal was a result of defensive lapse from Vinu Jose who was also guilty of several other blunders in the box during the match.

The defending champions picked up the momentum in the second half and maintained constant pressure on the rival citadel.

T Asif Saheer came close to scoring in the 50th minute but the brilliant Assam custodian Jitu Chetri made a valiant save.

Kerala's equaliser finally came in the 70th minute, when referee S M Balu pointed to the penalty spot after Chetri brought down K Ajayan inside the box. K Bineesh easily converted the penalty.

Seven minutes later Kerala's T Usman delivered a measured cross to S Ignatious, who made it 2-1 for Kerala.

With seconds to go for the hooter, Abdul Naushad got a clear ball inside the box and scored to make it 3-1.

Kerala topped Group-A with six points with Bengal placed second with three, followed by Assam who had no points.

In the second match, Services scored a goal in each half to beat the Railways and top group B.

Services shot into lead in the 13th minute when Raghu Kumar sent in a measured pass to Preetam Bahadur who converted without much ado.

The Railways, for whom the match was inconsequential as they were already out of the reckoning, however made some smart moves, particularly through striker Janak Basumatary but failed due to poor finishing on every occasion.

On the hour, Preetam Bahadur scored his second goal of the match when he headed in a measured cross from the left flank that beat the Railways goalkeeper all ends up.

Services who ended up with equal four points along with Maharashtra qualified for the last four stage by better goal average.

Kerala would now lock horns with Services in the first semi-final on November 1 while Wednesday's Group-C and Group-D matches would decide the other two semi-finalists.

The final is slated for November 5.

Complete Coverage: Santosh Trophy 2002