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Kerala salvages some pride, finishes third

A. Vinod

  • Goa's chance to win the Santosh Trophy after 15 years
  • Maharashtra hopes to put up a good show
  • Goa will miss the services of Samir Naik and Clifford Miranda

    BRAVE EFFORT: Punjab goalkeeper Karanjit Singh attempts to thwart a Kerala attack. — Photo: Mahesh Harilal

    KOCHI: Host Kerala salvaged some pride as it defeated Punjab 2-1 and claimed the third spot in the Air India Express-60th Santosh Trophy at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Sunday.

    The clash between last year's finalists was a dull affair. Kerala was dominant, but could not translate its supremacy in the midfield in the first-half.

    Having muffed up at least half-a-dozen chances, Kerala finally broke the deadlock through N.P. Pradeep after the he was fed with a back- pass by Asif Saheer near the top of the box.

    However, Punjab negated the lead within the next ten minutes. The equaliser came off a corner and Narinder Singh was in position to direct the ball in to the rival net beyond the reach of Kerala skipper and custodian M.V. Nelson.

    The reverse had the desired effect on the home side which finally got the winner through Saheer whose goal-bound shot from the left hit the far post before curling in.

    Kerala, for the consolation win, picked up a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh.

    On Monday, the flair of the Goans could well be matched by the intelligent approach of the Maharashtrians. Both the teams have made the final in contrasting fashion. The Goans steamrolled their rivals right through the cluster matches, the quarterfinal league and the semifinal and scored as many as 41 goals while conceding just one. In contrast, Maharashtra might not have had as much success as the Goans in terms of scoring.

    Yet, what makes it a tough opponent for the Goans is the manner in which the side has scalped teams like Services, Bengal and Kerala in back-to-back matches enroute the final.

    However, Goan coach, Mauricio Afonso, put up a brave front while talking to the media on Sunday. "We are very happy that the team has performed well and reached the final. The boys are raring to go." It will be a chance for the Goans to win the Santosh Trophy after a gap of 15 years.

    But Goa would be missing the services of its skipper Samir Naik and midfielder Clifford Miranda, both down with injuries. A change in the starting XI that played against Punjab in the second semifinal looks certain as Nicholau Borges is ready to regain his place in the Goan frontline, in place of Peter Carvalho, having undergone one-match suspension he had earned after being red-carded in the quarterfinal league match against Manipur.

    Maharashtra's hopes

    The Maharashtra side, for which Kerala has always remained a happy hunting ground, too have been calculating their chances meticulously since Friday.

    Said the team coach, Irenio Vaz: "It is only true that the Goans may look more enterprising than us. But should my boys play up to their potential, we too have a chance to return home with the title."

    The team would be missing the services of the injured striker Abhishek Yadav. And then deep defender Jinto Jose, who remains suspended after having collected two yellows. His place will be taken by Douzhy Godinho.

    Monday's final: Goa v Maharashtra, 7 p.m.

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