Maharashtra tame Kerala via early Md Najib strike
Unexpected AIFF booty for players
34th title for Mumbai
Manipur start with a win
Smart Chieftan comes good

Thrissur, April 23: 
It was almost an encore of the 1991 final in Palakkad, where Maharashtra had won their last title, beating Kerala 1-0. At the Municipal Stadium here this evening, Mohammed Najib gave Maharashtra their third Santosh Trophy victory through a first-half goal that next year�s hosts hung on to in this 56th edition. Kerala had last won the title in 1993, beating Maharashtra 2-1.

In a rather charged atmosphere of a raucous, partisan crowd, dancing on rickety makeshift stands, screaming their lungs out at every obtuse move that their team made, Maharashtra did not start well at all. In fact, it was the dominance of Kerala that pushed the decibel level beyond civil limits in the stands. It was the combination for Sylvester Ignatious and M. Boneyface, and to some extent Ashif Shaheer, that was carrying the day for Kerala. Their star, I.M. Vijayan, was lying somewhat low, and in the shackles of Maharashtra policemen, though occasionally coming out for the kill or the chip ahead.

Those initial moments � Boneyface centres across the goalmouth, Vijayan and Shaheer misses from close � were ticklish moments. For a body of support like it is here, one goal for Kerala early in the match would have meant a victory dance till the end. But the organisation was not there. The adrenaline was overpowering, while the cerebrum refused to accept those occasional individual initiatives as soccer. Too much was placed on these three-four players, too little on the rest. A top-heavy team is susceptible to a topple.

The first Maharashtra look at the rival goal came in the 13th minute when Syed Hussein volleyed over from close. Five minutes later Najib swivelled around two defenders to enter the Kerala penalty box. With only goalkeeper M.V. Nelson to beat, he shot out.

The team, was getting closer to the target, though. They were grouping well, playing more like a team and more like social beasts and constantly reading the Kerala outbursts. Two minutes later, Khalid Siddique prompted Manjit Singh who moved into the box, past two rather perplexed defenders. He let go the ball as the goalkeeper rushed out, too early, and a waiting Najib quickly shot home a grounder.

By then the rather simplistic Kerala plan of action was clear, even to the child on the sideline. If Ignatious is fed, he and Shaheer will one-two to move up, mostly through the right flank, and there will be a centre to the goalmouth or a cross across. Vijayan would want to put in a touch then. If Vijayan went in off a wall play, he would have the right to take a away at goal, (header, shot or otherwise), while others can only follow. It was crass. Not that soccer was being played at any Himalayan level, but this was too transparent.

Maharashtra attacks continued, Jamil�s flying header coming off the crosspiece in the 29th minute, Najib shooting over from close on the dot of break-time. Kerala were even resorting to body play.

The trend somewhat continued in the second half. Najib was up right and into the box in the 51st minute and Manjit Singh shot out from close.

The pace was the there, but there was a lot of useless running around too.

And most importantly, as the godly image of Vijayan faded, he was also pushing around. While refereeing of Bengal�s Udayan Haldar was good, he was definitely being too lenient on the star.

Midway through the second session, Kerala decided to regroup, give up their wild attitude and try and make a match of the, well, match. Vijayan actually was passing (one just shot out by K. Naushad in the 59th minute), then Vijayan shot straight into the Maharashtra goalkeeper after a gem of a pass from V. Suresh Babu.

As end of regulation time neared, the melee at the Maharashtra goalmouth grew. It was tearing pressure, and a mess of legs and wasted initiatives. But Maharashtra hung on, and on, till the whistle.

�They crowded their goalmouth so much,� said Kerala coach M.M. Jacob later. �We could have won it there. But we also missed several chances.�

�They did pressure us in the end,� said Maharashtra coach Harish Rao. �It was close. I had just told my boys �we have worked so hard for the past 14-odd days, don�t let all that effort go in just one-and-a-half hours.�

The teams

Maharashtra: Virender Singh, Ramesh Rajak, Tapan Ghosh, Naushad Moosa, Syed Hussain, Khalid Jamil, Aqueel Ansari, Khalid Siddique (Bungo Singh), M Najeeb, Abbas Ali Rizvi (Tomba Singh), Manjit Singh (Asif Jamal)

Kerala: M. V. Nelson, K. Bineesh, Jiju Jacob, Joe Paul Anchery, M. Suresh, M. Bonnyface, I. M. Vijayan, V. Surresh Babu, K Naushad (M. A. Abdul Hakkim), Ignatius Sylvester, Ashif Saheer (M. K. Sunil and B. Edison)

Referee: Udayan Haldar (Bengal)    

Thrissur, April 23: 
Maharashtra medio and skipper Aqueel Ansari was named best Player of the Tournament and given a Rs 1 lakh purse as well after the end of the 56th edition of the national football championship for the Santosh Trophy here this evening.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary Kedarnath Mour, who arrived here this afternoon actually came down with the money. This was surprising, because the rather high-profile president of the AIFF, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, despite loud claims to journalists at the start of the season, was unable to organise a title sponsor for the meet. There was no prize money mentioned, and suddenly today the AIFF was giving away Rs 2.5 lakh to the champions (Maharashtra), Rs 1.5 lakh to the runners-up (Kerala), Rs 1.2 lakh to third place Bengal (this unusual amount was not explained), and Rs 80,000 to fourth placed Goa. Mr Mour also did not reveal from which account of the federation did this amount come from.

There were other awards too. The Best Forward was Kerala�s Sylvester Ignatious, Best Defender Kerala�s Jo Paul Ancheri, Best Medio was Kerala�s Khalid Jamil and Best Goalkeeper was Virender Singh of Maharashtra. Though it might seem these were selected from the final only, it was actually a decision for the entire tournament, of all teams. Wonder how no other player of any other team in any position ever caught the notice of the men who did the selection. Even the Fairplay Trophy went to Kerala.

A recipe for disaster

Sitting inside the Municipal Stadium here this evening, watching the final, one was reminded of rather primitive scenes. Temporary wooden galleries, rising way up into disaster zone, with dancing and prancing fans mouthing intelligibles, actually was a representation of soccer in Kerala in the 21st Century. It was a prefect recipe for disaster.

Nearly 40,000 packed into a stadium that normally should be banned, but on a push should hold no more than 20,000. Actually 20,000 was the daily tickets number. There were also 7,500 complimentaries, 1,300 season tickets (yes, they are still sold, in Kerala), and 2,000 for policemen. Of course the policemen were some what lenient to many of their kith and kin.

There were hardly any firefighters ready, small buckets of sand and the foot of the stands, mocking the very notion of intelligent living. One small slip, and it could have been death for many. The ministers were there, the bureaucrats were around too, nobody cared; not the authorities, not the soccer body, not the people.

The other apprehension, and more dangerous, is might be they don�t even understand. Probably they actually need a disaster to realise.    

Mumbai, April 23 
Diminutive left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar returned career-best figures of seven for 103 as Mumbai drubbed Hyderabad by 297 runs and regained the Ranji Trophy after a two-year gap on the fifth and final day of the final today.

Pawar grabbed Hyderabad�s last three wickets at a personal cost of only seven runs in just 26 balls this morning to help the hosts wrap up the match in just over half an hour after the visitors resumed at 251 for seven, chasing an imposing 591.

Hyderabad were all out for 293 off the second ball of the ninth over this morning as Mumbai clinched their 34th title in 38 entries into the final. Their last triumph was in 1996-97 when they beat Delhi in a day-night final.

The 21-year-old Pawar, who represented India in the junior World Cup in South Africa four years ago, finished with a superb match-haul of ten for 147, his second haul of ten or more wickets in the tournament � both coming this season � and took his season�s tally to 44 in nine matches.

Pawar�s previous best was six for 19 against Maharashtra in a zonal league tie where he returned a match-haul of 11 for 63.

Today, he sent back Fiaz Ahmed, not out 11 last evening, for 21 in his second over of the day and then got rid off Venkatapathy Raju and Narendra Pal Singh in his next two overs to complete a memorable win.

Fiaz, after adding ten to his overnight score, was deceived in the air in the third over of the morning. His checked drive ballooned to mid-on. Raju was taken by Sachin Tendulkar at slip as was last man N.P. Singh. It was the ninth encounter between the teams and Mumbai have come out trumps on all occasions with seven outright wins.

Mumbai made 376 in the first essay, after Hyderabad captain Mohammed Azharuddin chose to field and then bundled out the visitors for 195 to take a 181-run lead. The home team smashed the visitors with gusto in the second essay to end up with 409 and virtually put the match beyond Hyderabad�s reach by setting the target of 591. There was little in the Hyderabad chase except for the 188-run stand for the second wicket between V.V.S. Laxman, who made an attractive 111, and left-handed opener Daniel Manohar (71).

Mankad praises Pawar

Pawar will play for India in a year�s time, predicted Ashok Mankad. �He should play for India in the next one year. He has great tenacity,� the Mumbai coach said of the left-arm spinner.

About Mumbai�s return to winning ways after failing to reach the Super League last year, Mankad attributed it to the change in attitude. �It is one of the best Mumbai sides I have seen. They came back from the dumps and brought glory to Mumbai cricket again.�

Azharuddin felt April was too hot to play cricket and his players were too tired after the train journey from Hyderabad.    

Calcutta, April 23 
Manipur overcame a second-minute setback to trounce Assam 4-1 in the inaugural match of the fifth Eveready East Zone hockey championship at CC&FC today.

Jay Jivan Dadhara struck for Assam before M. Premeswar equalised in the 30th minute. C.H. Napolean made it 2-1, a minute from half time.

Manipur consolidated their lead through Y. Ojit and K. Jaychandra after the breather. Manipur could have increased the tally but could convert only one of the 15 penalty corners they earned. Assam was not far behind in this respect, wasting eight.

BHA League

Raymond Jeejeebhoy scored for Calcutta Parsees in their 1-0 win over Baranagore in a first division group B match of the BHA League today.

Rishra triumph

Rishra Sporting Club slipped two goals past Bali AC to lift the Tarun Sangha-organised Millennium Super Soccer Challenge Cup at Bandel�s Debi Park last week.

Earlier, Gautam Ghosh struck to give Hooghly a 1-0 win over Calcutta in an exhibition match that saw a who�s who of past and present footballers turn out.

Sailen Manna, adjudged �Footballer of the Century� by AIFF, and Ashwini (Bhola) Barat, a local coach who taught some top footballers like Surajit Sengupta, Tanumoy Bose and Swarup Das take their first steps in the game, were felicitated.    

Mumbai, April 23: 
Smart Chieftan completed the routine task of winning the 2,800m McDowell Indian St Leger at the Mahalaxmi racecourse in Mumbai on Sunday. The Placerville-Stunning four-year-old claimed the Indian triple-crown having already won the Indian 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. Owned by MAM Ramaswamy, the galloping goldmine and the highest stake money winner on the Indian turf � over Rs 2 crore, of which more than Rs 1.1 crore plus the bonus for the triple-crown earned in last 11 weeks � now leaves for Singapore. K. P. Appu partnered the Karan Singh-trainee.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Abdullah Khairaz Trophy 2,000m: (2-4-1) Mount Rose (Kader) 1; Dominate Force 2; Favorite Trick 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 6; (2-6.2). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 14; 24; Quinella: 59; Tanala: 180. Fav: Mount Rose (2).

2. Philanthropist Plate 1,100m: (4-2-8) Line Of Control ( Rajendra) 1; Aylesfield 2; Dendrobium 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 3-1/4; (1-7.7). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 13; 10; 26; Quinella: 21; Tanala: 126. Fav: Aylesfield (2).

3. Parkash Agricultural Products Trophy1,400m: (2-1-5) Josh King (Chauhan) 1; Sonalika 2; The Silken Thomas 3. Won by: 1/2; 3/4; (1-26.5). Tote: Win Rs 132; Place: 26; 12; 16; Quinella: 104; Tanala: 1,293. Fav: Sonalika (1).

4. Tristar Plate 1,100m: (9-2-7) Lethal Striker (Bernard) 1; Royal Jester 2; Shubhangini 3. Won by: 3/4; Nk; (1-8.3). Tote: Win Rs 779; Place: 84; 51; 19; Quinella: 3,834; Tanala: 39,744. Fav: Streaking Senorita (4).

5. Amontillado Plate 1,400m: (5-1-4) Storm Again (Shroff) 1; Altazano 2; Silver Blue 3. Won by: 3-3/4; SH; (1-27.3). Tote: Win Rs 15; Place: 11; 15; 21; Quinella: 21; Tanala: 85. Fav: Storm Again (5).

6. McDowell Indian St Leger 2,800m: (8-1-2-7) Smart Chieftan (Appu) 1; Alchemy (Kader) 2; Bonzer (Shroff) 3; Secret Treasure (C. Alford) 4. Won by: 2-1/2; 3/4; 4; (2-58.1). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 12; 16; 15; Quinella: 26; Tanala: 79. Fav: Smart Chieftan (8).

7. Parnasus Plate 1,400m: (4-2-8) Nuclear Power (Appu) 1; Act Of Trust 2; Fine Arrow 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 2-3/4; (1-27.9). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 12; 20; 43; Quinella: 55; Tanala: 864. Fav: Nuclear Power (4).

8. Double Dan Plate 1,100m: (5-4-1) Golden Dynasty (Kadam) 1; Knight Moves 2; Raise A Toast 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-8.3). Tote: Win Rs 77; Place: 26; 17; 24; Quinella: 242; Tanala: 1,798. Fav: Knight Moves (4).

Jackpot: Rs 37,086; (C) Rs 862.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,441; (ii) Rs 19,175; (iii) Rs 706.    


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