Maharashtra keeps their semis hope alive in Santosh Trophy!


23rd March’18,KOLKATA: Maharashtra left behind a forgetful campaign opener to foil  Chandigarh’s semi-final hopes after a hard-earned 2-1 victory over their opponent, here at Rabindra Sarovar Stadium in a crucial group A clash of the 72nd Santosh Trophy. Maharashtra thus kept their hopes for qualification alive as they will now look to win all of their remaining group fixtures.

Early strikes from Shubham Khanvilkar in the 5th minute and skipper Dion Menezes in the 9th minute, saw Maharashtra take the lead early on. Vishal Sharma pulled one back in the 88th minute to raise hopes for the Chandigarh side, but couldn’t save his team from going down to a young Maharashtran side.

The westerners started well, as it took just five minutes for them to take the lead. Advait Shinde lost possession  inside the  Chandigarh box but Shubham Khanvilkar took full advantage of being unmarked from the right flank and his outstep lob took the Chandigarh custodian by surprise as the ball settled into the first post to set the tone early into the first half.

Unsettled by the early setback Chandigarh conceded another fateful goal 4 minutes later as Maharashtra through their skipper Dion Menezes. The ball fell to the prolific Maharashtran defender who took an ambitious shot from around 40 yards. The Chandigarh keeper Manvir Singh  was out of his position and his failure to judge the flight of the ball, fared too costly for his side as it sailed over his head into the back of the net, to hand over the charge to the westerners.

Chandigarh panicked even more after the twin debacle and brought on Pankaj Singh to replace skipper Pawandeep Singh, who was largely at fault for not mobilising their midfield. They got the first chance of the match when Harminder Singh shot straight into the hands of Maharashtran keeper Aditya Mishra who did pretty well to hold on to a powerful scorcher.

Meanwhile Maharashtra built up their game pretty well through their holding midfielders Kiran Pandhare and Mrunal Tandel , who got enough support from Siddharth Colaco, the attacking midfielder. They set up promising moves through-out the match and kept Chandigarh backline on toes.

Chandigarh’s poor decision-making and lack of creativity in the final third made it tough for them to capitalise on the rare openings through the left flanks. They got a nice opportunity in the 37th minute when Harminder provided a nice lob towards the left flank but Vivek Rana the U21 forward failed to keep the ball close after chesting it down as Pramod Pandey had to inflict a crucial clearance for Maharashtra as they went into the break leading 2-0.

Action in the second half resumed with Chandigarh showing much more urgency and upped their tempo. But the timid Maharshtran defense was equally up for the task as Pramod Pandey pulled off an important block to Vivek Rana’s shot inside the box in the 56th minute.

Just a couple of minutes later Maharashtra skipper Dion Menezes survives injury scare after a harsh collision with Vishal Sharma of Chandigarh but kept on going for the sake of his side showing tremendous resilience in the back. Chandigarh continued to build up promising moves with the help of Harminder and Barjinderpal Singh who seemed desperate for goals, but lack of response from their forwards didn’t help the cause, as the Pramod Pandey led Maharshtra defence kept their cool and averted all the danger.

Maharashtra substitute Leander Dharmai had the best chance in the second half when he broke into the opposition box, but his powerful shot from 10 yards within the goalline, was saved by the Chandigarh goalie Manvir Singh, diving to his left. Chandigarh had a golden opportunity in the 79th minute when their forward Vishal Sharma dribbled past the Maharashtran goalie only to see his attempt blocked by a crowd of westerner’s defenders.

Chandigarh centre-back Nikhil Prasher saved further blushes for his team when he pulled off a stunning goal-line clearance a couple of minutes later. Chandigarh rued another opportunity when substitute forward Prateek Joshi failed to score with only Maharashtran goalie to beat after getting a great lob from Vivek Rana through the right as he blew it over the crossbar in the 83rd minute.

Chandigarh’s persistence finally paid off in the 88th minute when they found the back of the net through Vishal Sharma but it was a tad too late for them. Vivek Rana broke in through the right and had a crack at the goal which was first saved nicely by Aditya Mishra but Vishal Sharma slotted home the rebound to bring some consolation for the northern side.

Maharashtra held off the late flury to earn their first victory and registered their first points on board as they will look to upset another heavyweight Kerala on Sunday, to keep their hopes alive. Chandigarh, with only one point from three outings, next play Bengal on the same day as they are out of contention for a semi-final berth.



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