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    Services pip Kerala to win 67th Santosh Trophy

    Kochi: Only sport can silence 35,000 people at one go. On Sunday in the final of the 67th Santosh Trophy here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, when Services won the 67th Santosh Trophy by beating hosts Kerala 4-3 on penalties after the two sides were locked goalless, such was the case.

    Kerala right-back Surjith's shot hit the horizontal and the Services players, who had defended their crown successfully, erupted in unbridled joy. For the visitors, Dhanji Singh, Sharwan Kumar, Dileep M and Kiran K Varghese scored while two shots were saved by Kerala custodian Jean Christian. For the hosts, Rino Anto, Abdul Basid and Sarath BT found the back of the net.

    Services striker Lalian Mawia was adjudged the Man of the Match. It was always going to be a battle of who blinks first. And Kerala blinked, but not without a fight. A riveting essay of 120 minutes which needed penalty shootouts to settle the dust, the final of the National Championships gifted the 35,000 odd spectators at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday (March 3, 2013) a great game of football.

    Amidst deafening chants came Kerala's first real chance in the 11th minute. Kannan - shrugging off his injury and playing in the final - latched on to a cross from the midfield inside the 18-yard box.

    But his strike brought out the best in goalkeeper Nano Singh of Services. Usman then dribbled past defenders in the 15th minute but his shot lacked sting and went straight into the hands of the custodian, who was the busier of the two in the opening exchanges.

    The visitors though had one golden opportunity to surge in front as early as in the 6th minute. But the hero of the second semifinal Lalian Mawia shot over from inside the box. Mawia had another chance to make amends in the 25th minute when he was set up on top of the box by Subrata Sarkar. But this time the goalkeeper blocked his effort.

    Change of ends saw no change of fortunes for either outfit. They played with same verve but the elusive goal was not coming. If Kerala's rearguard must be credited for their assiduity, the defending champions' custodian Nano proved to be a rock under the bar. Usman came closest twice in each half. His shot off Shibin Lal's spadework flew inches over the bar in the 105th minute. Early on in the second half of extra time, the striker's effort hit the chest of the goalkeeper after he was set up by substitute Nazarudeen beautifully.

    Services lacked teeth up front and the reason was the absence of their top goal getter V.V. Farhad due to injury. Kerala also missed the services of left winger Vineeth Anthony. It of course did not matter at the end.