Santosh Trophy: Kerala dominate Gujarat with big win
Akbar Sidhique scored a brace
Kerala kicked off their 77th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy with a commanding 3-0 victory over Gujarat at the SAG ground in Benaulim. The match was marked by Kerala’s dominance, with standout performances from Akbar Sidhique who scored a brace and Nijo Gilbert who assisted two and scored the team’s third goal.
Kerala wasted no time in asserting their dominance, with Riswanali Edakkavil’s early attempt soaring over the bar in the 5th minute.
However, it was in the 12th minute that the crowd roared to life. Kerala’s skipper Nijo Gilbert initiated a brilliant run down the right flank, delivering a precise cut back pass to Sajeesh E. Although Sajeesh missed the opportunity, Akbar Sidhique displayed sheer opportunism, capitalizing on the loose ball at the far post. He skillfully placed the ball past the Gujarat keeper with a low shot, giving Kerala a well-deserved lead.
Riswanali continued to pressurize the Gujarat defense, narrowly missing the target with several attempts. Yet, it was Akbar who stole the show once again, doubling Kerala’s lead at the half-hour mark. With remarkable precision, he unleashed a curling strike from the edge of the box, leaving the Gujarat keeper, Shubham Chauhan, with no chance. Once again it was Nijo who initiated the move on the right flank and played a cut back pass to Akbar, providing his second assist of the day.
Kerala didn’t stop there. In the 3-0 lead, they showcased their versatility. Nijo Gilbert, the right winger, seized an opportunity in the second half, noticing the Gujarat keeper out of position. Gilbert fired a sensational shot from outside the box, further extending Kerala’s lead.
Chhattisgarh’s MD Ayaan set the tone early with a fierce attempt in the 8th minute, testing the J&K goalkeeper who was forced to deflect the ball for a corner. Despite the promising start, Chhattisgarh couldn’t convert the ensuing set-piece into a goal.
J&K’s Mehran Dar had a golden opportunity in the 15th minute, beautifully set up by Aakif, but Chhattisgarh’s custodian stood tall, denying Dar’s shot and keeping his team in the game. Chhattisgarh, too, came agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock when Amit Nag’s powerful strike rattled the crossbar, leaving the supporters gasping in disbelief.
The crucial moment arrived in the 45th minute when Raja Musharaf of Jammu and Kashmir seized the opportunity. With impeccable timing and precision, Musharaf found the back of the net, scoring the decisive goal that secured the victory for his team.