Second straight win for SBT

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM March 30. State Bank of Travancore, tentative at the start, overcame an improved FC Kochin 3-1 to record its second straight success in the second phase of the second division of the National Football League at the Chandrasekharan Nair stadium here on Sunday.

Nothing went right for SBT in the initial stages before it pulled up its socks and emerged a facile winner in the end. The story perhaps could have been different had FC Kochin's Nana David not bungled an early penalty awarded to his side.

This was a welcome reprieve for the local side coming as it did after its defence was fully exposed by the repeated runs from M.K. Binoop and Daniel Bomfa. It was one of those runs down the right flank by Binoop that fetched FC Kochin the spot-kick. Binoop was tackled hard by Abdul Basheer and Abhilash Appukuttan and the referee, Benjamin D' Silva, promptly pointed to the spot.

As ill luck would have it David hit the ball straight to custodian Harshal Rehman, who gathered in his second attempt. The SBT frontline too faced problems until midway through the first session. Despite sufficient promptings from the middle it somehow or the other seemed to lose its way before reaching the rival box.

Asif Saheer, who later played a stellar role, was starved of passes as Ajayan and Ignatius failed to collectively engage the speedy pocket dynamo into the action. On the right flank, things were no different as Abdul Hakim failed to measure up to the passes from Lanel Thomas and an overlapping Paul Antony.

Hakim finally made amends when he pushed SBT into the lead with a chipped shot off a high defence-splitting ball from Lanel Thomas.

SBT consolidated its position further, five minutes into the second session, when Saheer with a brilliant run down the right provided the opening for Ajayan to score. The response from FC Kochin was equally quick. Bomfa capitalised on a lapse from the SBT defence and nailed a powerful shot beyond the reach of Harshal Rehman.

But FC Kochin was unable to translate this success to the expected level despite holding territorial advantage. It was not long before SBT came back into the picture. The third goal for the local side was also shaped by Saheer. This time around he took the ball down the middle before finding an unmarked Ajayan, who made no mistake.

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