Manipur beat Kerala to lift Santosh Trophy

Hosts Manipur clinched the Santosh Trophy defeating defending champions Kerala 2-1 at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal today.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:28 IST
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Manipur created history by annexing the coveted Santosh Trophy for the first time as they scripted a thrilling 2-1 victory over holders Kerala in the 58th edition of the National Football Championships here today. The promising youngster W Tomba Singh produced the golden goal early in the extra time after both the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of the scheduled time in a match which saw fortunes fluctuating from one side to the other till the very end. Spurred on by a vociferous home crowd, the hosts shot into the lead as early as the 6th minute of the contest with the diminutive L Tikken Singh finding the target. But the Keralites bounced back by finding the equaliser through Abdul Naushad just three minutes before the regulation time. Tomba Singh's golden goal in the fourth minute of extra time sent the 25,000 home fans into raptures as Manipur fulfilled a long-cherished dream of winning the trophy for the first time since 1941. Kerala players immediately protested against the golden goal awarded to Manipur arguing the ball instead of directly landing into the net had instead hit the top of the net and rebounded. The Kerala players were seen pleading with the referee to disallow the goal even as television replays confirmed it be a legitimate one. Strengthened by the services of outstation players like Moni Tombi Singh, Bijen Singh andd James Singh, the diminutive and fast moving Manipur forward line combined well to launch furious onslaughts on the tight Kerala defence right from the word go. Four-time winners and five-time runners up Kerala was in for a shock as the Manipur forwards ripped apart the Kerala defence. Manipur who dominated the proceedings in the first half, shot into the lead in the sixth minute, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. A long throw-in from Uttam Kumar saw Tikken Singh heading it in (1-0). Playing in the 4-3-3 formation, Kerala, which has impressed as the most balanced and compact team in the championship, however, failed to keep their momentum going today. The final scoreline betrayed the level of play Manipur produced as the ball was totally in the Kerala half for most of the time in the first half while in the second half Kerala could took the advantage for a bare ten minutes. The home team could have gone in to the lead in the second minute and then again in the fifth but James Singh, Rennedy Singh, Bijen Singh and Bungo Singh missed easy chances despite having only the goalkeeper to beat. Kerala's first shot at the Manipur goal was in the 11th minute when their star forward Sylvester Ignatious, who had a miserable final, shot side of a good free kick from top of the box. Vinu Jose, a key Kerala defender in the middle who has rarely been porous, was totally off-colour faltering under pressure from the Manipur attacks. But Manipur were also guilty of messing up chances. Bijen Singh, top scorer of the tournament with ten goals, shot wide once in the first half. Bijen was also guilty of missing at least three more easy chances in the second half. Manipur custodian Noren Singh, hero of semi-final victory against Goa, again stood up to the task effecting a brilliant save off a good header from the hardworking forward Aseef Saheer. (PTI)