Maharashtra are nearly through to the pre-quarter finals after thrashing Andhra Pradesh 4-1 in their Cluster II qualifying match at Howrah Stadium on Saturday. This is their second straight win, having beaten Chandigarh 4-0 in the first match.
A draw in their last match, against Tripura, will be enough to send Maharashtra to the next stage.
In Cluster I, Lajong FC midfielder Niwano Gathpoh scored a hattrick to help Meghalaya trounce Jharkhand 5-0 in their second and final group league encounter at Barasat stadium, keeping alive their hopes of making it to the pre-quarters. Meghalaya lost their opening match to Karnataka 0-1.
A lot now will depend on the last encounter between Karnataka and Jharkhand as the former need only a point to qualify for the next round.
At Howrah, Alex Ambrose put Maharashtra forward with a brace within the first quarter of the match.
Reuben D'Souza extended the lead after squeezing in a volley from the right.
Andhra Pradesh reduced the lead at the stroke of half-time on a counterattack.
Syed Ali Akbar sent a cross from the right off which Dutikumar Mahato scored from close. However, Andhra Pradesh failed to capitalise on the momentum and somewhat tired opponents. Lack of ball control saw them being dispossessed easily and Maharashtra were content controlling possession.
Twenty minutes into the second-half, substitute Kaushik Bose's 24-yard piledriver ricocheted off the horizontal, and Jatin Bisht, who happened to be completely unmarked by the Andhra defence, headed in the rebound to make it 4-1.
In another Cluster II match at Khardah stadium, Tripura held Chandigarh to a 1-1 draw. Rajendra Deb Verma's 58th minute strike negated Harvinder Singh's 23rd minute goal.