Monday, Apr 08, 2002
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FC Kochin defender Obinna Winners (left)and Salgaocar forward Sunday Seah try to outwit each other in their Tata National Football League match in Kochi on Sunday.
The match, crucial for both teams though in different ways, was itself a seesaw battle that kept the spartan crowd engrossed almost throughout. But in the end if the Kochi side managed to stave off the challenge from its rival, and thereby also avenge its 0-1 loss in the first phase, luck played a major role in the final outcome.
In fact, it will be a day that the Salgaocar skipper, Coven Lawrence, would like to forget as quickly as possible. Put simply, it was the two vital mistakes committed by this deep defender that helped FC Kochin turn the tables on its opponent. This interestingly after the local side itself seemed to be out of luck. A glaring error by assistant referee, Rocky Fernandez, in the interpretation of the offside rule had helped Alex Amrbose find the lead for Salgaocar moments earlier.
For all the early dominance that it showed, Salgaocar was unable to push its way forward with its front liners kept at bay by a tight rival defence led admirably by Obinna Winners. Yet, the Goans with Sunday Seah and Alex Ambrose upfront and supported well by the midfield cast continued on their good work until Kulothugan gained in confidence to carry out a surprise raid into the other end.
The FC Kochin striker almost brought down the Salgaocar defence before a rushing Roberto Fernandez cleared the ball away. As it came into the middle, Denis Carbal was quick to gain possession and put it through to Alex Ambrose, who however, was clearly offside before the ball came his way. However, the flag from the line stayed down and Alex had little difficulty in blasting the ball past a diving Ali Abubacker.
Protests by the local players went in vain. The side bounced back almost immediately as a quick raid by Bijumon and Kulothungan ended with FC Kochin gaining its first flag-kick of the day. Susanth Mathew's conversion of the corner came in low and Coven Lawrence in his attempt to stop Bijumon from gaining possession could not get his hand away from the ball on time. Kulothungan converted the resultant penalty with a shot to the left of Juje Siddi.
The equaliser provided added confidence to the local players and with two minutes left for the breather, FC Kochin was eventually successful in forging ahead with what proved to be the match-winner. The side initially looked to have wasted a free kick before Bijumon came running from nowhere, diagonally across the field, and produced what looked an innocuous shot at the rival goalmouth. Coven Lawrence in his attempt to clear deflected the ball into his own net.
The Goans looked determined to overcome the deficit right from the restart but their efforts to do so failed to materialise due to the equally resolute methods adopted by the rival defence where Mohammed Shafeeq proved to be outstanding with two goal line saves. The Kochi side, off speedy counter-moves, too had its chances but these were frittered away by Kulothungan and Anil Kumar before the game turned rough and forced referee Manuel Pereira to make as many as eight bookings - four each from either side.
FC Kochin finally was successful in holding on to its slender lead through to the whistle but will miss out Winners, Naushad, Kulothungan and Sajeer in its next match against East Bengal to be played here on April 11. Salgaocar will meet Mohun Bagan next at home the same day.
The standings after 20 rounds (Read under played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points): Mohun Bagan: 20-12-5-3-27-15-41; Churchill Brothers: 20-11-6-3-43-18-39; Vasco: 20-11-4-5-24-18-37; Salgaocar: 20-9-8-3-27-13-35; East Bengal: 20-10-2-8-29-22-32; Mahindra United: 29-8-6-6-23-17-30; ITI: 20-8-6-6-25-21-30; HASC: 20-7-4-9-16-25-25; Tollygunge Agragami: 20-5-5-10-21-36-20; FC Kochin: 20-4-5-11-12-26-17; JCT: 20-3-6-11-15-25-15; Punjab Police: 20-2-3-15-9-35-9.
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