Principal Correspondent

ALUVA: A sparkling four-goal show, including a hat-trick, from captain Akhil K. Joseph sent Ernakulam on a joy ride in the Kerala State under-13 inter-District football championship at the Municipal Stadium here on Monday evening.

Ernakulam jolted defending champion Malappuram, the State's biggest football nursery and a dominant force in all the age groups, 6-3 in a surprisingly lop-sided final and won its maiden title. The host led 3-1 at half-time.

Heavy rain over the last few days had left the ground uneven and slushy in many parts. Despite the poor ground conditions, the Ernakulam boys, mostly from CBSE schools, combined nicely and found easy gaps in the Malappuram defence in the opening session.

Rashid's day off

To add to their joy, Malappuram's main goalkeeper Muhammed Rashid seemed to have an off-day as he fiddled with the ball unsurely and lost his balance a few times. He was replaced midway through first half half but with a healthy half-time lead, Ernakulam had little to worry in the next session.

Akhil Joseph, from the Girinagar Bhavan's Vidya Mandir, played smartly; he was at the right place at the right time today and emerged as the championship's top scorer with nine goals. And he was well fed, with some lovely crosses, by Akash Pradeep and Joseph Philip.

For Malappuram, captain Shameel impressed with his nice raids, fine passes and with the team's first goal, foxing the goalkeeper Rahul with a straight shot. He had also had a hand in the next goal, serving a smart pass for a lovely Ijaz Ali longranger.

K.P. Sunny, the Kerala Football Association secretary, gave away the prizes, including the Malayala ManoramaTrophy to the Ernakulam team.

The results: Final:Ernakulam 6 (Akhil Joseph 19th, 36th, 55th, 61st; Akhil P. Cyril 2nd, Bryan Xavier 58th) bt Malappuram 3 (Shameel 12th, Ijaz Ali 50th, Danish 59th).

Third place:Idukki 4 (Amal Binoy 7th, 19th) bt Wynad 2 (Mohammed Rafi 13th, P. Akhil 35th).

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