Kerala enters final roundJanuary 23, 2018
Kerala booked its spot in the final round of the Santosh Trophy with a goalless draw against Tamil Nadu at the Football Stadium here on Monday.
Kerala needed only a point from the final South Zone qualifier to finish on top of Group B (on goal difference) and it accomplished the task, even if a little unconvincingly. With the clock ticking down, Tamil Nadu — needing a win to advance — looked increasingly bold, but there was no breakthrough.
“I’m not happy; I’m not disappointed either,” said the Kerala coach, Satheevan Balan, afterwards. “Our line-up was not defensive. We created chances but we missed them. Definitely there was some tension towards the end. Except our defenders all our players looked shaky today. Our wingers failed; our strikers and central midfielders were not up to the mark either.”
Kerala’s failure to score was due in no small part to the efforts of the rival goalkeeper. M. Manikandan pulled off a number of fine saves, palming Vibin Thomas’s powerful free-kick over the bar, and blocking close-range shots from strikers Sajith Poulose and V.K. Afdal.
Tamil Nadu had one good opportunity of its own, but K. Manimaran missed from point-blank range on the stroke of half-time. There were few other clear-cut chances, although the side grew in confidence as the game wore on. Kerala came through unscathed despite its wastefulness in front of goal.