Rafiq A Wani
SRINAGAR: It wasn’t the game that public followed like they did when home teams were in the action. But, the summit clash of Kashmir Invitational Football Cup 2014 had the best game of the tourney in the store for the sparse crowd that had made to Bakhshi Stadium on a hot and humid Wednesday afternoon.
Both the finalists-Air India Football Club and ONGC Football Club-exhibited their A game to make it a thrilling title decider. For the majority of 90 minutes ONGC were having the control of the game, but Air India showed the nerves and skill level to raise their game when it mattered the most, to fashion the title glory.
It was a close fought final with Air India edging past ONGC by a thin margin of 2-1 with both goals coming in the space of half a dozen minutes in the second half. The goal scorers for the champions were ND Opera and Vivek Singh while Kailash Patelk found the net once for the ONGC.
It was ONGC that started the final on a brisk and aggressive note, making moves on the either flank to surprise Air India. Five minutes into the game, ONGC drew the first blood with Kailash thumping the ball into the goal to beat the diving Air India goalkeeper.
The pace of the game picked up every minute but witnessed many a missed opportunity from the both sides. The sluggish and uneven turf at the Bakhshi Stadium didn’t hamper the quality of the game, but players were eager not to affect their will to win the final. The teams went into half time break with ONGC having noses infront and a lead of one goal.
The second half was another story altogether with Nigerian import ND Opera showing his magic much to the joy of the crowd. And, it was him who found the equalizer for his side, guiding a penalty ever so nonchalantly to the left of goalkeeper to Air India opening.
And, they made most of it with Vivek Singh scoring a goal after five minutes which proved to the decisive one.
ONGC did mount attack after attack in search of an equalizer, but lacked the finishing touch which was enough for them to finish second when the final whistle blew. Air India players mobbed each other in jubilation to signal their triumph as ONGC players gave a picture of disappointment.
Singh was the man of the final.
Six teams-three each from the J&K and outside state- participated in the 9-day event with JK Forest XI, JK Bank Academy and JK Police XI the local ones and SBT Football Club besides the two finalists the visiting sides.
The local teams had a poor showing the tournament with JK Bank Academy and JK Police XI suffering early exits and JK Forest XI shown the door in the semis.
The tournament was organized by Jammu and Kashmir Football Association with JK State Sports Council sponsoring the event.
The Minister for Housing, Horticulture and Youth Services & Sports, Raman Bhalla, Minister for Health and Medical Education, Taj Mohi-ud-din were in attendance among the dignitaries to watch the final.
Secretary, J&K Sports Council DalipThusu, President J&K Football Association Zameer A. Thakur, Director Horticulture Kashmir, Pawan Kumar, other officers besides football fans watched the game.