Kerala lift Santosh Trophy

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Updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Kerala struck a golden goal in the first minute of the second half of extra time in the final of 57th National Football Championship against Goa to lift the Santosh Trophy here today. They defeated Goa 3-2, after being held 2-2 at the end of scheduled close of play in 90 minutes. Both teams were playing their 10th final of the Nationals and both have won one of the two finals they had played before this evening. Abdul Hakim sort of emulated the skipper of the first Kerala team to win the Santosh Trophy, Mani, by scoring three goals in a final. Mani had performed the feat in the 3-0 victory over Railways in the 1973 final at Ernakulam. Hakim capitalized on two errors of a sluggish Goa defence to help Kerala recover from a third minute goal and lead 2-1 by the 20th minute. But Kerala gradually faded away in the rest of the first half and played a subsidiary role in the second half and the first half of extra time. They were fortunate to gain the golden goal and with it the coveted trophy. Goa started off briskly and in their second attack scoring a fine goal following a flag kick off midfielder Noel Wilson in the third minute. Abhay Kumar netted in off a pass from Ratan Singh to make it 2-2. Kerala picked up the shattered pieces and with Hakim, Asif Saheer and Ignatius displaying quick touches and good runs, they came close to equalising. But it was a surprising lapse by Goa's defence that let Hakim race down the middle with a forward pass, elude Seby Coelho and flick to the right of an immobile Kalyan Choubey. Hakim followed up this 13th minute effort with another goal seven minutes later. This was a well-conceived move involving Suresh Babu, Hakim and Saheer. Saheer, who had veered to the right, crossed to the goal area, where Hakim got in front of Seby Coelho and turned the ball in a flash to Choubey's right, the same corner where he sent the first goal. But as the match wore on, the weakness of the Kerala deep defence became more and more glaring. Too often, the Kerala back four were caught without cover. This was compounded by the defenders not staying behind on the goalside of their rivals. Kerala lived through long spells of anxiety as their rivals came in for the ball and moved away dangerously. The strain on Kerala was palpable as goalkeeper Purushotthaman dived to his right and fisted away a 35-yard sizzler by Wilson and later a desperate Sivakumar kicked into onrushing Purushotthamam and the ball rebounded to safety. Before these Levy Coelho, Abhay Kumar and Ratan Singh failed. Goa got the equalizer two minutes after the interval when Noel Wilson converted a penalty awarded by referee J Ravishankar of Delhi against Bijneesh for handling the ball. Abhay Kumar failed to meet the ball at the post twice and Jose Colaco after a fine piece of ball control at the top of the box, muffed the chance. (PTI)

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