The full house at the Malappuram District Sports Complex Stadium could not have asked for more. Not only did host Kerala enter the final of the Santosh Trophy National football championship, it did so in style.
The former champion thrashed Karnataka 7-3. T.K. Jesin, who came on as a substitute in the opening half, was the architect of the resounding win.
He netted five goals, including an old-fashioned hat-trick. His show began after Karnataka gave Kerala a scare, taking the lead in the 25th minute through Sudheer Kotikela, off a superb square pass into the goal area from N. Solaimalai.
Jesin found the equaliser just ten minutes later for Kerala, as he beat Karnataka’s advancing goalkeeper Kevin Koshy with a neatly angled shot after receiving an excellent long ball from Muhammad Rashid into the box.
Jesin then struck twice inside the next 10 minutes. An injury-time goal from Shighil made the scoreline 4-1 at half-time.
Nine minutes into the second half, P. Kamalesh gave a glimmer of hope as he made it 2-4 with a long-ranger. If the Karnataka men thought it could make a match of it, they were proved wrong, as Jesin scored two more goals; there was one from Arjun Jayaraj too.
In the final to be played on May 2, Kerala will take on the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Bengal and Manipur.