Some shoddy goalkeeping by Tamil Nadu custodian A. Arun Pradeep coupled with a spirited second half display helped Mizoram book a maiden final berth at the 68th National Championships of the Santosh Trophy at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Friday. They beat the southern outfit 3-1.
Two-time finalists Tamil Nadu had taken the lead right at the stroke of halftime through A. Raegan. But a rejuvenated Mizoram aided by a goalkeeping gaffe clawed back into the match courtesy a long range strike from substitute David Lalrinmuana who got them level and the match into extra time, followed by opportunistic strikes from Zico Zoremsanga and substitute F. Lalrinpuia.
The goalkeeper was at fault during both the equaliser and the second goal. While he erred with the flight of the ball from David's 35-yard drive, the second one saw him quake in his boots inside the six yard area where he should take the lead.
After the match a delighted Mizoram Coach H.V. Vanlalthlanga said: "It is a great moment for Mizoram. This is the first time we are going to play in the Final and I feel the boys deserved it for their good showing throughout the tournament."
"Tamil Nadu did very well to contain us in the first half. They played good football. But I am glad the boys came back strongly after the break."
The match started at a slow pace in the opening exchanges.
In the 18th minute, Tamil Nadu's No.10 P. Sudhakar pinched the ball off a Mizoram defender to set up Raegan, but the latter could only manage a tame effort straight into the hands of Mizoram goalkeeper Lalawpuia.
Sudhakar was in the thick of things again four minutes later clipping the ball beautifully for Raegan who found right winger S. Karthick inside the box but the right winger failed to connect.
Mizoram's first real chance came four minutes into the half hour mark. Left winger Lalfakzuala -- who has been impressive throughout the tournament with his darting runs down the left channel -- outwit his marker and sent in a teasing cross for Laltanpuia who couldn't do justice to it, shooting straight at goalkeeper Arun Pradeep.
That was the only clear chance the first time semifinalists got with their rivals having done their homework really well in containing the fast paced Northeastern outfit.
But the half sparked to life every time the duo of Sudhakar and Raegan combined in the attacking third. Of one such exchange Tamil Nadu broke the deadlock. Raegan got on the end of a delicate Sudhakar flick-on from a goal kick. Dribbling past his marker, the striker placed his shot low and into the far corner.
Much against the run of play, Mizoram equalised. Tamil Nadu goalkeeper Pradeep was at fault here failing to collect a harmless long range effort from substitute David Lalrinmuana. The ball bounced in front of the custodian who misjudged the flight completely.
All square after regulation time, the match headed towards extra time.
Mizoram dramatically took the lead for the first time in the match in the 94th minute. Tamil Nadu left back Sandosh Kumar failed to clear from a corner with Mizoram's Lalbiakhlua on the prowl. Pouncing on the loose ball, the right winger tried a semi back volley which was eventually nodded in by Zico.
Lalrinpuia netted a third one minute before the final whistle to complete the win.