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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State Bank of Travancore defeated NISA Manipur XI 2-0 and advanced into the semifinals of the GV Raja all-India tournament at the University stadium on Friday.
K. Rakesh (38th) and Asif Saheer (68th) scored the goals for SBT which topped pool ‘D’ with four points and made grade. SBT, which needed to win to qualify, was effective without being spectacular.
SBT won the key moments on the field and executed its gameplan better.
The return of experienced Asif Saheer and Abdul Noushad reinforced the side which was without its injured captain and key defender Abdul Basheer for this match. But Basheer’s absence was hardly felt.
The key to SBT’s success was its denial of space to Manipur players. It did not allow Manipur players to settle down in the midfield and cut off the supply lines to the strikers Jimmy Singh and Denal effectively.
C.J. Rinil in the midfield was instrumental in initiating most of SBT’s moves. But Abdul Noushad was rusty on the left flank and Asif Saheer a tad slow upfront as SBT struggled to translate its dominance into goal.
However, SBT went ahead in the 38th minute through a goal from Rakesh. A looping throw by Kabeer was relayed to Noushad by Rinil.
Noushad’s first-timer ricocheted off goalkeeper’s body and was going towards the goal when an unmarked Rakesh rushed in and guided the ball home.
SBT had chance to increase the lead at the start of the second half. But Mohammed Shafi who beat Manipur’s off-side trap blasted the ball out when he had only the goalkeeper to beat.
The bankmen kept the pressure and Manipur goal fell again in the 68th minute. Rakesh stole the ball from Manipur defender Thomas Singh and his cut back found an unmarked Asif Saheer who had no difficulty in beating the goalkeeper. The goal saw SBT slip into defensive mode as Manipur came out with all guns blazing. SBT’s goal was under severe pressure but the defence kept its composure.Lucky
SBT was also lucky that Rajesh Meetei’s left footed shot in the 75th minute rebounded off the far post with goalkeeper Jean Christian hopelessly out of position.
SBT will meet Vasco Goa in the semifinals. The organisers have decided to hold the semifinals and finals under floodlights.
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