Malappuram: Remember the name, Jesin TK. The boy with No. 10 on his back de el scored five goals as Kerala stormed into the final of the Santosh Trophy with an incredible 7-3 victory over Karnataka on Thursday.
Under the lights at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri here, in humid conditions, it rained goals.
It was Karnataka that drew first blood when their skipper Sudheer Kotikela scored against the run of play in the 24th minute.
That was a wake-up call for the home side that had been unbeaten in the championship. After half-an-hour came the masterstroke — a substitution.
Bino George signaled Viknesh to step out and in his place arrived young forward Jesin. He was about to change Kerala’s fortunes, but it is probably safe to say that not even he would have dreamt of the series of events that were to unfold.
Inside the next 15 minutes, Jesin scored a hat-trick. Each goal a beauty in itself, similar but unique for his composition in front of goal.
Jesin’s fourth goal scored minutes after Karnataka had made it 2-4 was just as elegant as three strikes before that.
He outran the Karnataka defense on a counter and applied a composed finish before running toward the crowd and celebrating with a swagger.
It was 4-1 for Kerala at half-time, but the goal-scoring machine wasn’t done just yet.
After restart, Kamalesh had scored from a long ranger with Kerala goalkeeper Midhun unable to keep out the dipping ball.
Soon after it struck the hour mark, Arjun Jayaraj added a sixth goal with a stroke of luck after his cross deflected and ended in the net.
Solaimalai made it 3-6 for Karnataka with another long-range effort in the 71st minute.
But Jesin wasn’t done just yet and he made a timely run to get to the end of Noufal’s through ball to net his fifth goal and make it an unassailable 7-3 for Kerala.
Hat-trick in 15 minutes
Jesin’s hat-trick was completed inside just 15 minutes.
He had outpaced the Karnataka defense for his first two goals.
While the first one (33 minutes) was a delightful finish from the right of the box, the second (34 minutes) came from the left and on both occasions, Karnataka’s goalkeeper Kevin Koshy remained a mere spectator.
Jesin completed his hat-trick with yet another cool finish in the 41st minute and Shihil took advantage of the panic in the Karnataka defense with a fourth Kerala goal in the 45th minute.
Karnataka stun home crowd
Karnataka had taken a surprise lead through their captain Sudheer Kotikela in the 24th minute. The goal that came against the run of play had silenced the home crowd.
Kerala were left in disbelief as the Karnataka took the lead from a routine run from deep midfield that went unchecked.
Solaimalai did the damage as she ran into space on the left and after a neat exchange with Kamalesh found his skipper with a delightful low cross into the box.
Sudheer arrived late and finished with a tap in. Kerala had been looking dangerous shortly before the visitors scored.
Earlier, Kerala so nearly took an early lead but Shihil was denied by a fine save from Kevin Koshy in the Karnataka goal.
Moments before, Saheef had a go from range that was parried.
The first half-chance had failed for Karnataka when their young midfielder Kamalesh danced his way into the box, but his skipper Kotikela failed to deliver a telling ball.
Soon after, Kerala had shown great potential through its wily winger Nijo Gilbert, who cut inside and played a delightful ball for Viknesh, whose touch let him down.
Earlier, Kerala Bino George had named a strong XI. Goalkeeper Midhun V had returned to the XI after being substituted early with a knock against Punjab in Kerala’s final group match.
Karnataka were unchanged from their group match against Gujarat.