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 October 5, 2002 | 1550 IST

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Manipur lift Santosh Trophy

Manipur created history by annexing the coveted Santosh Trophy for the first time, as they scripted a thrilling 2-1 victory over holders Kerala in the final of the 58th edition of the National football championship, at the Khuman Lampak stadium in Imphal, on Tuesday.

Promising youngster W Tomba Singh produced the golden goal early in extra-time after both the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of the regular time, in a match which saw fortunes fluctuate from one side to the other till the very end.

Spurred on by a vociforous home crowd, the hosts shot into the lead as early as the sixth minute, with the diminutive L Tikken Singh finding the target.

But the Keralites bounced back, finding the equaliser through Abdul Naushad just three minutes before full-time.

Tomba Singh's golden goal in the fourth minute of extra-time sent the 25,000 home fans into raptures as Manipur fulfilled a long-cherished dream of winning the trophy for the first time since 1941.

The Kerala players immediately protested against the golden goal awarded to Manipur, arguing that the ball did not enter the net but hit the crossbar and ricochetted into play. They pleaded with the referee to change his decision even as television replays confirmed tha it was indeed a legitimate goal.

Strengthened by the services of outstation players like Moni Tombi Singh, Bijen Singh andd James Singh, the dimunitive and fast moving Manipur forward line combined well to launch furious onslaughts on the tight Kerala defence right from the word go.

Four-time winners and five-time runners-up Kerala were in for a shock as the Manipur forwards ripped apart their defence.

Manipur, who dominated the proceedings in the first-half, shot into the lead in the sixth minute, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. A long throw-in from Uttam Kumar saw Tikken Singh heading the ball home (1-0).

Playing the 4-3-3 formation, Kerala, who had impressed as the most balanced and compact team in the championship, however, failed to keep the momentum going today. The final scoreline betrayed the level of play Manipur produced as the ball was totally in the Kerala half for most of the first-half, while in the second-half Kerala held the upper hand for barely ten minutes.

The home team could have gone in to the lead in the second minute and then again in the fifth but James Singh, Rennedy Singh, Bijen Singh and Bungo Singh missed easy chances despite having only the goalkeeper to beat.

Kerala's first shot at the Manipur goal was in the 11th minute when their star forward Sylvester Ignatious, who had a miserable final, shot into the side netting following a good free-kick from top of the box.

Vinu Jose, a key Kerala defender in the middle who has rarely been porous, was totally off-colour, faltering under pressure from the Manipur attacks.

But Manipur were also guilty of messing up chances. Bijen Singh, the top scorer of the tournament with ten goals, shot wide once in the first-half. He was also guilty of missing at least three more easy chances in the second-half.

Manipur custodian Noren Singh, hero of the semi-final victory against Goa, again stood up to the task effecting a brilliant save off a good header from the hardworking forward Aseef Saheer.

While the Manipur players were waiting for the final whistle, Kerala mounted a counter offensive and found the equaliser through Naushad. Right-back Muhammed Shafeeq sent a long pass and Naushad chested the ball and lobbed it over the onrushing Manipur goalkeeper.

Four minutes into extra-time Tomba Singh scored the golden goal with a stiff right-footer from just outside the box to dethrone the defending champions.

Tomba Singh was also declared most valuable player of the final.

Complete Coverage: Santosh Trophy 2002