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NEW DELHI: Kerala snatched a point from the jaws of defeat as substitute Muhammed Parakkottil banged in two goals in the last five minutes to earn a thrilling 2-2 draw against Punjab at the GMC Stadium in Goa. 


Punjab scored back-to-back goals to go 2-0 up with just ten minutes of play left, however, Kerala came from the death to gain a valuable point that keeps them firmly in contention for a semi-final berth.


Both teams had relatively equal chances to score in the first half although Punjab had the better ball possession. Kerala skipper Usman P had a great chance to put his team in the lead when he received a through ball from the midfield, beat the offside trap and got past the keeper. But just as he was about to turn and take a shot, he was closed down by three onrushing Punjab defenders. 


A couple of minutes later, a cross from the right saw the ball elude the Punjab keeper and defender Rajbir Singh. In spite of two Kerala attackers waiting on the other side of the cross, they failed to score. Punjab too had chances of their own.


In the 11th minute, a superb volley by Vijay Kumar was well saved by the Kerala keeper Midhun V. He was again called into action when he saved a fine header from Rajbir Singh to keep the score at level pegging going into the break.


In the second half, Punjab relied on some fine counter attacking play to go 2-0 up within the first twenty minutes of the second half. First, a strong cross from the left by Amandeep Singh went dangerously close to the goal and Kerala defender Sherin Sam knocked it into his own net while trying to clear the cross.


In the 57th minute, Punjab coach Kuldip Singh must have thought he had the three points in the bag. A lovely diagonal ball across the Punjab midfield found Manvir Singh in acres of space on the left. Credit to him, though, he kept his composure, feigned two defenders and neatly placed the ball past an onrushing Midhun who could just watch the ball fly past him.


With nothing to lose, Kerala coach V. P. Shaji rolled the last die and brought in Muhammed Parakkottil. And the U-21 youngster didn’t disappoint his coach. Two minutes before the end of regulation time, a brilliant pacy cross by Jobby Justin found Parakkottil, whose bullet header gave the Punjab keeper Paramjit Singh absolutely no chance of saving it. 


Kerala were right back in it and luck was on their side when the fourth official showed five minutes of added on time. With seconds to go before the final whistle, Jobby Justin, turned provider again when hiss flick header found Parakkottil who was at the right place at the right time to deflect the ball into the Punjab goal sending the Kerala bench into raptures.


Kerala, with this draw, have four points from two matches while Punjab with 5 points from three games.


An unfortunate own goal by Rahul Dias in the 32nd minute relegated Maharashtra to a shock 0-1 defeat to Railways and almost ended their campaign in the 71st Santosh Trophy. 


After narrowly losing out to Mizoram in their first game by an identical scoreline, Maharashtra needed a win to keep their hopes alive in the tournament. However, an insipid display from the 1999-00 winners leaves them with virtually no chance of reaching the semi-finals.

Posted on : Friday March 17, 2017