Chennai: Tamil Nadu’s upset win over Kerala on Sunday has spiced up the proceedings in the Santosh Trophy south zone qualifiers. The hosts are now in pole position to reach the next stage. But the defeat of Kerala is a timely reminder to all teams that day’s performance is more important than paper strength and pedigree.
Kerala coach A.M. Sreedharan said his team must win their remaining three matches to qualify for the final phase as one of the two states from the south zone. “There is no margin for error from now on. I have no doubt that we were better than Tamil Nadu in all the departments. But the result didn’t go our way. It was not our day,” he added.
The coach wants his forwards to get their act together against Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday. “We missed some sharp chances. One goal would have changed the complexion of the match. I also want better coordination between our midfielders and the forward line. There would be no excuse if my players repeat the mistakes they committed against Tamil Nadu,” he said. Sreedharan said he never thought that Kerala would lose to Tamil Nadu. “The performance of the home team certainly exceeded my expectations,” he added.
Andhra Pradesh hammered a toothless Andaman and Nicobar 5-0 in the opening match of the five-team league. AP coach M. Hari is aware that facing a wounded Kerala team would be a different ball game. “My players are excited about playing a big team like Kerala. Our main objective would be stopping Kerala from scoring goals. I would be happy with a draw,” he said.
Karnataka will open their campaign against the Andaman and Nicobar on Tuesday. Karnataka, mainly served by players from HAL, MEG and BEML, are the frontrunners to come through the qualifiers. Former Churchill Brothers player Xavier Vijaykumar will lead the state’s charge. Karnataka lost defender Shankar and forward Deepak Prakash to the Indian U-22 team at the eleventh hour but coach Aslam Khan’s squad is deep enough to cope with the double blow....