Tamil Nadu blanks Pondicherry

TIRUCHI APRIL 9. There were surprises but not in the outcome of the inaugural day's match where host Tamil Nadu expectedly beat Pondicherry 3-0 in the South zone phase of the Under-21 national football championship at the St Joseph's higher secondary school ground on Wednesday. R.P. Ashok Kumar (two) and V. Jayakumar were the scorers.

The surprises were with regard to the weather and the turn out. Match Commissioner, S.S. Salien from WIFA, who was the central referee in the final of the Federation Cup tournament held on the same ground 19 years ago, thought it was lot hotter then than now. Indeed the slight drop in the mercury (it was touching 40 degree Centigrade until a few days ago) was a blessing to the players but lot more encouraging was the few hundreds who had come to watch the proceedings. It still is a far cry from the overflowing crowd that was the feature of the Federation Cup. But as an official was candid to admit, even this was encouraging sign considering Tiruchi DFA is hosting a major fixture after a long time.

On the field the little surprise for Tamil Nadu came in the form of Pondicherry's dour resistance for nearly half an hour. What is more Pondicherry even had the opportunity to shock the host in the early minutes when three players, Victor Raphael, Arokiaraj and Rajkumar stole deep into Tamil Nadu goal area only to lose sight of the citadel by getting into a tangle with the ball. A goal then could have been just the tonic that Pondicherry needed to boost up its image.

But as they say all good things had to end and for Pondicherry it ended with Ashok kumar's strike after hardworking Joseph Raj had done the spadework. From there Tamil Nadu's ascendancy began to emerge. With skipper Sundaravannakannan and Rajnikanth providing support from midfield, Ashok, Joseph and Jayakumar kept prowling the Pondicherry defence area, though further progress had to wait after the breather.

A chip from Sundarvannakannan set the path for Ashok kumar to strike again as he beat goalkeeper Irissappan to his left (49th mt). The flow now was increasingly towards Pondicherry end and smoothly too with Abdulla Sha excelling in floating the ball for goal-mouth actions. It was his effort that yielded the third goal (61st) when Jayakumar charged in to head home.

Earlier the Championship was inaugurated by the District Collector, Dr K. Manivasan in the presence of a host of officials.

Thursday's match: Kerala vs Andhra.