Nearly 27,000 people filled up the Malappuram District Sports Complex Stadium long before the kick-off of the final of the Santosh Trophy National football championship on Monday night. The team they had come to cheer for, Kerala, made it a memorable night for them.

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Kerala lifted the title for the seventh time, after beating Bengal in a penalty shootout. After normal time failed to produce a goal, the teams were tied 1-1 after extra time.

It was a case of history repeating itself: Kerala’s last triumph had also come after a shootout against Bengal, four years ago at Kolkata.

On this night though, Bengal was just four minutes away from winning its 32nd title in the tournament. It was leading by the 97th minute goal scored by Dilip Orawn, but Muhammed Safnad equalised for Kerala.

That goal was greeted by one of the loudest cheers one could imagine on a sporting field -- one that showed how much football means to this part of the world.

Safnad’s equalizing header came off P.N. Noufal’s cross from the right. Bengal’s goal was also from a header, with Supriya Pandit providing the cross, after a defensive lapse from Kerala.

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Earlier, in normal time, both sides got plenty of chances to score, as they played some exciting end-to-end football.

In the shootout, Bengal had to pay dearly for missing out on its second attempt, from Sajal Bag. All the other kicks went in. When the last of those kicks, taken by Kerala's M. Faslurahman, kissed the right top corner, the stadium erupted once again.