Chirag United Kerala's exit from next season's I-League was authored by a young man it had nurtured and groomed over four years in Kochi, Kozhikode and Kannur.
Indian striker C.S. Sabeeth's hat-trick helped Pailan Arrows thrash Chirag 3-0 in the I-League's 24th round at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Wednesday and with this loss, Chirag, Kerala's lone I-League team, has been relegated from the country's premier football championship.
Though Kochi-based Chirag is currently in the 12t spot with 17 points and has two matches in hand in the 14-team league, it has no chance of catching up or moving ahead of Mumbai FC which is seven points ahead and in the 11th spot.
The Kolkata-based Arrows, the AIFF's developmental team, had not won a match in the league this season and many expected it to hand over three easy points to Chirag.
But Sabeeth, who played for Viva Kerala till last season, had other plans. “I knew victory was possible here, I was sure,” said the 22-year-old after the game.
Chirag, despite many of its players not being fully fit, had the upper hand in the opening session. But its Nigerian striker David Sunday, who struck a hat-trick in the last game against East Bengal in Kolkata, missed a couple of chances and a little later P.K. Anilkumar shot over, within the first half hour.
Around this time, the Arrows' Malsawmfela was unlucky to hit the crosspiece after taking a perfect cross from the right.
But there were no such misses when it came to Sabeeth. Malsawmfela's attempt from the left in the 33rd minute saw the home team's goalkeeper K. Sharath fumbling.
Sabeeth, standing close by, was quick to tap it in.
Sherin sent out
The Chirag players were a frustrated lot after that and defender Sherin Sam picked a yellow card for bringing down Tirthankar Sarkar.
Sabeeth increased the lead towards the end of the first half. He looked dangerous as he ran towards the goal after being put through by Bikramjit Singh. Sharath, sensing danger, rushed out but Sabeeth dodged past him and put the ball in.
The second half was a quieter affair and just when the match appeared to be headed to a 2-0 finish, Sherin brought down Geoorge Alwyn inside the box in the fifth minute of injury time. Sherin took his second yellow and was sent out while Sabeeth converted the penalty.