aMumbai: Maharashtra made a bright positive start by thumping Rajasthan 4-0 in opening West Zone (Qualifying Round) of the 71st Santosh Trophy National Championship at the Rajmata Chunkumari Stadium, Waidhan – Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh.
After losing out on the championship last year, the team responded magnificently. Right from the kick off they strangled the Rajasthan side and kept them bereft of any possession whatsoever. After failed attempts in the opening quarter of the match, some scintillating passing in the opposition half saw an opening for Shravan Shetty who finished with aplomb to give Maharashtra the lead.
Supporters expecting the flood gates to flow open were left disappointed as Rajasthan camped near their goal to deny any scoring sight.
Second half started in similar fashion as Maharashtra with the giant share of possession created attempt after attempt to open the opposition defence. Abhishek Ambekar with his lightning pace and knack to find space in the opposition defence sent a rappelling shot into the bottom corner to double the lead and give Maharashtra an iron grip on the game.
Midfield maestro, Kiran Pandhare, found space in the opposition box to score the third goal and establish the win. Astle Pereira, a second half substitute playing his first tournament for the state, scored the fourth goal in the 85th minute to cap off an impressive game.
The win served as a warning that Maharashtra was approaching the sort of form that carried them close to the title last season and this performance confirmed their growing confidence and stature.
Godfred Pereira, Head Coach reflected on the match by saying, a?It is a massive victory, a very important three points. Tough game; we played some impressive football to set the tone, so the value of the victory is massive.a?
Maharashtra face Gujarat in the final match of the group on January 8 and could seal their qualification into the final round of the tournament.
Result: Maharashtra 4 (Shravan Shetty 27th, Abhishek Ambekar 57th, Kiran Pandhare 72nd, Astle Pereira 85th) beat -0 Rajasthan 0.