Kozhikode, Jan 8 (Agency) Defending champions Kerala qualified for the final round of the 76th Hero Senior Men’s National Football championship for the Santosh Trophy as group champions after thrashing Mizoram 5-1 in the last round preliminary matches of Group -2 played at EMS Corporation stadium, here on Sunday. Undefeated hosts Kerala netted 15 points from five matches, while Mizoram finished with 12 points and tasted their first defeat in this championship. The six group toppers, along with the three best second placed teams will qualify for the final rounds.
Railways, Services and final round hosts team will get direct entry, so the chances of Mizoram was still alive to enter the final round from Group-2, while considering their goal averages (14.8) by netting 14 goals and receiving 8 goals. Naresh Bhagyanath gave the lead to the hosts in the 30th minute of the first half due to the mistake of Mizoram goal keeper and later he also scored one more goal in the 65th minute, which was one of the best goals of the tournament. Nijo Gilbert scored the second goal in the 47th minute through a free kick, Gifty C Gracious netted the fourth goal in the 76th minute (4-0). Mizoram’s Malsawmfola scored the consolation goal in the 80th minute (4-1) from a free kick while Vishak M scored the last goal in the 85th minute as the match finished 5-1 in favour of hosts Kerala. Kerala are at the top of the table with 15 points, followed by Mizoram 12 points, Jammu & Kashmir 7 points, Bihar and Rajasthan stood in fourth and fifth places with 4 points respectively, Andhra Pradesh have one point.