Assam finished as champion after a 5-3 penalty shootout victory over strong contender Kerala in the final of the 39th All India Electricity Board football championship at the Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
It was sweet revenge of sorts for the title winner as it went down to Kerala in a third place clash last year. “We are pleased to have won the title this time around but it came after a lot of sweat,” said Ganesh Rai, the coach of the team.
“The last time we had won was about two decades ago at Shimoga. I was a player then,” he added.
It was an even battle for most part of the first half but towards the end the Assam strikers looked threatening. They even came close to scoring a goal or two, but Kerala held its fort well.
The game changed as soon as the teams came out for the second session. The Kerala men called the shots and, Assam, quite wisely, went on the defensive. The storyline remained much the same for the rest of the session.
With the teams locked goalless at the end of the regulation period, it was time for penalty shootout. Assam, which toppled defending champion West Bengal in the semifinal, showed nerves of steel all the way to emerge victorious.
Earlier, Delhi defeated West Bengal 5-4 via sudden death for the third place.
Final: Assam 0 bt Kerala 0 (5-3 via tie-breaker). Third place: Delhi 0 bt West Bengal 0 (5-3 via sudden death).
Semifinals: Assam 2 (William Gante 17, 78) bt West Bengal 0; Kerala 2 (Alex 9, 66) bt Delhi 1 (Vikram 93).