Santosh Trophy: Kerala edge Assam in opening match

Abdu Raheem
Abdu Raheem, No. 5, exults after putting Kerala ahead. Photo: Special Arrangement

Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh): Kerala began their campaign in the Santosh Trophy National Football Championship final round with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Assam here on Wednesday.

Midfielder Abdu Raheem drew first blood for Kerala in the 19th minute as he curled a left-footer past the goalkeeper.

The seven-time champions doubled the lead in the second half with Sajeesh E finding the back of the net in the 67th minute before Assam pulled one back through Dipu Mirdha. Kerala survived a few anxious moments before captain Nijo Gilbert wrapped up the tie with a goal in the fifth minute of added time.

Services defeated Meghalaya 1-0 in the inaugural match.

Kerala players celebrate a goal against Assam. Photo: Special Arrangement

Apart from Kerala, Assam, Services and Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa are the other teams in Group A. Group B consists of defending champions Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Mizoram, Manipur and Railways. The top four from each group will progress to the quarterfinals.

Kerala next meet Goa on Friday (7 pm).

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