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Central Railway mesmerise FC Kochi  

November 30, 1998 

The Indian Express 

MUMBAI: FC Kochin's show of courage against Iranian Cultural and Sports Club (Dubai) hauled Central Railway into the 98th Bristol Rovers Cup football semi-finals at the Cooperage today.The outcome delighted local fans, disappointed after Mahindras crashed out of the competition in an earlier quarter-final league match. Kochin denied their vaunted opponents victory by a margin greater than 1-0 and the score cleared the line for Central Railway to progress from Group B 
The despondent Iranians, who bow out, vented their ire against the officiating -- that included referee Inayatulla Khan and linesmen Gokuldas Nagvenkar and J Ravishankar. In a bitter reaction to their experience in Mumbai, coach MajeedSalimpour said he does not want to come to the tournament again. Speaking through an interpreter, Salimpour warned Indian football of making little or no progress unless officiating improved. He claimed that the referee failed to award his side two penalties and respond to fouls by Kochin who packed their defence to thwart his players. ``Your referees don't know the rules,'' Salimpour said. ``They only wear badges.'' 
The tirade notwithstanding, take nothing away from FC Kochin, eliminated from the competition after losing to Central Railway. They played for pride, challenged their better built opponents relentlessly and were quick to counter attack. Striker Iman Alemi scored a splendid match-winner in the 22nd minute. Skipper Abbas Sarkhab put Alemi in possession on the right flank and the striker found the far corner of the net with a left-foot outstep that gave Kochin's Ghanian 'keeper Ali Abubaker no chance. The Iranians maintained composure for much of the match, piecing together somedangerous raids but Kochin did well to defend in numbers. Abubaker's role was the keynote of a sound defence and the young African set the tone with a superlative save to deny Naeim Sadavi Sad in the 18th minute, using his fingertips to touch a close-range volley over the bar.
Kochin had the Iranian defence on tenterhooks and striker Najeeb should have equalised on three occasions with breathtaking attempts -- one which hit the bar seconds before half-time. There was plenty to applaud in the second half as the Iranians burst forward for the all-important second goal. But far from defending desperately, Kochin did enough to cause consternation in the Iranian defence and with a little luck could have levelled through Karunakar Raj and Najeeb.

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