KOZHIKODE: Two goals down inside the first seven minutes. Viva Kerala couldn't have begun worse, but the Kochi club didn't give in and fought back with a lot of spirit. That, however, wasn't enough, as Salgaocar won the NFL second division match 3-2 at the Corporation Stadium here on Wednesday.
It was a game the Goans couldn't have afforded to lose, having been forced to split the points in their opening game with Army XI. They must have expected a tough game against the Kerala team, and they got one. The match indeed was as close and as exciting as the scoreline suggests, as the two best sides in the competition produced some entertaining football.
The beginning wasn't as promising though, as Viva conceded those two easy goals, both scored by Felix Chimaokwu. The first one he scored from the spot, after Jerose Oliveira was fouled by R. Dhanarajan.
The second one was a beauty, as he swung the ball, not far from the left edge of the box, sweetly in to the net above the Viva custodian M. Shiju's head.
The Viva boys were a bit rattled by those twin strikes so early in the game, but they recovered slowly. They reduced the margin in the 27th minute, when their best player, Baba Tunde, headed in a gentle lob from P. Sajesh after C. Shineraj's attempt at the goal rebounded off the Salgaocar defence.
Four minutes into the second half, the Goans went up by two goals again, when R.C. Prakash chipped in a corner kick, with the help of Felix. Viva wasn't willing to concede the game yet and regrouped its attack, despite Baba being marked for special treatment by the Salgoacar defenders; the Nigerian had to limp off the ground twice.
P.K. Anil Kumar, who played his heart out, raised Viva's hopes of a point when he made the score 3-2, in the 73rd minute, sliding the ball home from close in, after being fed by Shineraj. Though Viva tried hard for an equaliser, it never came, despite having the better of the exchanges in the second half.