Kerala set up a pre-quarter final date with Mizoram on Wednesday, with a thumping win over Assam in their last Cluster VII match at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Monday.
Mizoram defeated Railways at the Howrah stadium and qualified from Cluster VIII on goals scored. Three teams, Mizoram, Railways and Orissa finished on six points. Orissa went out of the picture because of inferior goal difference. But both Mizoram and Railways had the same goal difference of +9. Mizoram scored 12 goals against Railways' 11.
In an inconsequential match, Uttarakhand defeated Himachal Pradesh 4-0 to end their Santosh Trophy campaign on a winning note. Himachal Pradesh on the other hand, went back without a point in their kitty.
Needing a win to advance, Kerala shot into the lead in the 19th minute when Viva Kerala midfielder, Javed OK, floated in a centre. Assam central defender Naoba Singh, trying to clear the ball guided it into the net. Assam equalised through Akum Ao just three minutes later when he tapped in a corner-kick.
A draw would have been good enough for Assam to qualify. But boosted by Ao's equaliser, they pushed men upfront. Kerala survived a spell of sustained pressure on their goal. Sanjay Boro had his long ranger tipped over and then the framework denied Ao.
Kerala restored their lead in the 41st minute when Chirag United's new central defender, Justin Stephen, headed in a corner from Jaseer Karanath. Kerala got an insurance goal in the 68th minute. Javed darted into the Assam box and cut back for Sakeer MP who kept his cool and slotted home. Kerala piled on Assam's miseries when they pumped in a fourth in the 81st minute. Brijesh Ben volleyed home a low corner from Sakeer.
Assam did pull another back when Sishuram Chutia nodded in off a free-kick but that was too little too late. And finding gaps in the defence, Kerala scored a fifth in added time through a solo run on the counter and a rasping shot by former Mohammedan Sporting striker Subair KP.