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Uttarakhand qualify for Santosh Trophy final round

Uttarakhand State Team

Uttarakhand State Team

Uttarakhand defeated Chandigarh by a solitary goal to earn a ticket for the final round of the Santosh Trophy to be played in Siliguri later this month. Saurabh Rawat scored the matchwinner in the 84th minute to ensure Uttarakhand top Group A of the North Zone Qualifiers at the Akshardham Games Village Ground on Monday.

Courtesy the victory, Uttarakhand finished on seven points and Haryana on five points. Host Delhi ended on four points while Chandigarh failed to open their account.

Rawat followed up a long-ball from Sher Singh Bora and calmly put it past Chandigarh Goalkeeper Mohit Raj Singh in the 84th minute.

Earlier, Chandigarh were on an attacking mode right from the kick-off. They could have even surged into an early lead in the 6th minute but Nitin Rawat managed a goalline save to deny Harminder Singh after the latter had gone past the Uttarakhand defence.

Uttarakhand regrouped fast and launched a series of attacks. In the process they earned three corners but all of them went abegging. Their ploy of testing the Chandigarh Goalkeeper Mohit Raj Singh from far did not pay dividends as the shots stayed off the target.

But Chandigarh were not to be suppressed. They came close in the 18th minute after Saurav Rautella found Harminder in the clear but an onrushing Uttarakhand Goalkeeper Virender Pandey averted the danger.

Uttarakhand’s first real chance came in the 22nd minute. Sher Singh Bora feinted past his marker on the left flank but even as Striker Alok Singh Kalakoti followed it up, an alert Mohit kept it at bay.

An acrobatic Mohit also came to his Team’s rescue in the 35th minute when he palmed away Manoj Singh Majila’s rasper.

Off the counter, Uttarakhand survived a scare when Pawandeep Singh’s placement from just outside the 18-yard box off Arhsdeep Singh’s cross went inches wide.

Immediately after resumption, Manoj cut inside the Chandigarh goal-area but his shot sailed over.

Chandigarh replied back in style. The very next minute, Pawandeep, who always spelt danger for Uttarakhand almost everytime he touched the ball set up Rajan Negi on the right. Negi, with all the time in the World, entered the box but his shot bounced off the post after it had Virender beaten hands down.

Both teams kept attacking relentlessly and the ball kept rotating from one box to the other. Uttarakhand could have slot it home in the 65th minute but Bora mistimed his shot after he had sneaked past Vivek Gulati.

Knowing that a victory would see them through to the Final round, Uttarakhand pressed hard. An intelligent Negi lobbed it over the rival defence as he tried to find Kalakoti but Gurpratap Singh in the Chandigarh defence recovered faster.

The very next minute, Negi could have sealed it for his Team but his shot from inside the rival box was off the mark. The fate stayed the same for Uttarakhand in the 75th minute – another of Kalakoti’s shot going over.

The goal which seemed inevitable eventually came in the 84th minute. What seemed a harmless clearance sailed over the entire Chandigarh defence and Saurabh Rawat, following it up made no mistake to slot it into the net.

Celebrations followed, and deservingly.

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)