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FC Kochi show their class, win zonal title

August 3, 1998

Indian Express

KANNUR: FC Kochi's youthful second string shrugged off their inhibitions, and a late challenge by the State Bank of Travancore, to emerge 2-0 winners in the final of the Kalyani Black Label Federation Cup(South Zone)football tournament here today. 
Abu Jomo's spectacular 23rd minute goal broke the deadline, before Najeeb added another ten minutes later. The Kochi side whihc missed the services of eigth players, including 6 of their regulars, who left for Bangalore to join the National junior camp, had just one player on their bench. -- Casmiro Palha, the reserve goalkeeper. Still the new-look FC Kochi side refused to throw in the towel, and made their seasonal rivals sweat for the entire 90 minutes of play. 
The FC Kochi, will know meet Mohun Bagan in their opening fixture of the Federation Cup final round , which kicks off on August 19. The SBT are scheduled to meet Salgaocar. 
The FC Kochi settled down quickly, moving the ball well along the ground with shallow diagonals in the midfield, and with the linkmen swapping positions. Noushad was firm as a defensive linkman in front of his stoppers, while the wing  backs Shafeeq and Noha Rozario frequently surged forward to lift high crosses into the paths of Najeed and Abu Jomo. 
Jomo's goal was the result of an intelligent move initiated by Noushad from near the half-way line, after snatching the ball away from the SBT medio Lanel who delayed control. Noushad lifted the ball to Najeed and the latter, with a posse of rival defenders chasing him, sprinted for ten yards, cut inside and relayed the ball to Jomo. 
The Ghanian who was uncomfortable with the ball on his left, dragged it to his right, raced past three challenges into the box and volleyed it home. 
The SBT had their task cut out, but they messed up frequently by throwing more men in search for goals, but at the expense of leaving the doors to their goal open.
Najeeb's second goal came during this spell, off a solo effort. After trapping a Dhanesh lob from the deep and sidestepping tackles with ease, the nippy striker went on to baffle the SBT defence with a diagonal run that ended up in the penalty area and the goal.
After this, the FC Kochi preferred to employ a two-man defence, with Ram Rai operating wide from behind, and resorted to man to man marking for the rest of the game. This proved to be an effective weapon in denying the rivals time and space to advance. 
The slowness of VP Shaji and CV Sunny in pouncing on high crossfield passes, and a shaky defence added to the bankmen's woes. Even a late spurt, which saw the duo upfront muffing chances one after another, was not enough for the bankmen to breach the FC Kochi defence. On those rare occasions when the Kochi defence was beaten , the Ghanainan goalkeeper Ali Abubaker came out with a string of brilliant dives to deny SBT goals. 

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