Kerala have booked their place in the pre-quarter finals of the 65th National Football Championship for Sanotsh Trophy as they defeated Jharkhand 3-0 in a do-or-die clash in cluster IV. Firoz K who after coming on as a substitute, scored a hat trick for the state team was the pick of Kerala players.
Kerala were the better team in all departments against a Jharkhand side, which was powered with Tata Football Academy (TFA) players. Kerala created their first opportunity of the match early in the 10th minute, as a shot from Mohammed Razi rattled the crossbar.
In the 20th minute, Kerala coach and former Indian international, Rajeev Kumar, took striker Rakesh K off the pitch and replaced him with another striker Firoz K who will prove to be Kerala’s match winner later.
The man from Manjeri in Malappuram found his first goal of the game in the 41st minute as he received a long clearance from Surjith VV and dribbled past two Jharkhand defenders to find the back of the net. Kerala were ahead by a goal when the referee called for half time.
Jharkhand brought back in to the game some sting after the break. But Kerala defenders did their job in preventing the equaliser. Kerala goal keeper Joby Joseph also did well by making two important saves in the first 15 minutes of the second period.
Kerala doubled their lead in the 66th minute. This time also, it was a defender, N Johnson, who provided the assist for Firoz as he headed Johnson’s cross in to the goal. Despite going 2-0 up, Kerala did not give up their attacking play and they were rewarded with a third five minutes before the end of play, completing Firoz’s hat trick.
The hat trick was scored of a spectacular as a cross from midfielder Vinod Kumar S, was met with a scissor kick from Firoz. The goal keeper stood no chance saving the shot and Kerala were cruising in to the pre-quarter finals of the national championship.
Firoz K hails from Manjeri in Malappuram district of Kerala.He was first noticed as he played key role in the Kerala team that finished runners up in the national under-21 championship. After completing his education at NSS College, Manjeri, he joined Viva Kerala. He also represented Kerala clubs like Malabar United and State Bank of Travancore (SBT) before signing for Kerala Police this year. He represented Maharashtra in the 2009 edition of Santosh Trophy.
Kerala will now play Manipur in the knock out stage on May 13, 2011. It was in this stage that Kerala were knocked out last two times and coach Rajeev Kumar will be hoping that his team would be third time lucky on Friday.
Jharkhand 0-3 Kerala
Goals: Firoz K (41′, 66′, 85′)
Venue: Sports Complex Ground, Tinsukia