Bharathan fired in two goals as Calicut University defeated host Mahatma Gandhi, Kottayam, 4-3 in a thriller and regained the National inter-university football title here on Tuesday.
The match witnessed a pulsating half hour in the first session during which six goals were scored. And at one stage, in the 26th minute, the host led 3-2 with Eldhose George scoring two of them.
But despite being under severe pressure with the crowd loudly supporting MG, it was Calicut which came out with flying colours in the second half during which striker V.P. Suhair scored an early goal and the team hung on to it till the end. “I realised that there were some problems in the defence in the first half, I tightened it in the second session. That helped,” said the Calicut coach Satheevan Balan.
Suhair had been Calicut’s top score in its campaign here but this evening, he was not given much space by the home defenders, with Jijo James keeping him on a tight leash.
But left winger Bharathan had a free run. Not very tall, in fact he was Calicut’s shortest player, he came up with some wily play, his quick raids down the flank catching the host by surprise.
The sudden raids from the left saw Bharathan scoring two stunning goals in the fifth and 18th minutes but each time, MG had an answer, through Eldhose George who found the the net twice in a seven-minute spell. The host went ahead in the 26th minute when Libin scored with a lovely, rising longranger.
Calicut gained a freekick after a goalkeeper error and Jijo converted it to bring the equaliser. The teams were level 3-3 at half time and Bharathan was in fine form in the second session. Twice he set up lovely chances and Suhair scored through one such opportunity in the 48th minute. The host has frequently had a happy record in this championship and MG, desperate for a win, applied pressure. The host made two solid attempts in the injury time but the Calicut goalkeeper Sandeep and defenders, especially Aneesh, stayed steady and a little later, the celebrations began.
The result: Final: Calicut 4 (Bharathan 5th & 8th, Jijo Joseph 35th, V.P. Suhair 48th) bt Mahatma Gandhi, Kottayam 3 (Eldhose 15th & 22nd, Libin 26th). Third place match: Delhi 5 bt LNIPE, Gwalior 4, via tiebreaker (full-time 0-0). — Special Correspondent