MALAPPURAM: Two sides with two distinct styles of play will vie with each other in the final of TNIE GOAL-2017 at the Malappuram District Sports Council Stadium on Sunday. Despite all their differences, both teams will have their sights trained on the most coveted inter-collegiate football title on offer in Kerala.
Mar Dionysius College, Pazhanji, reached Sunday’s final playing their trademark waiting game in which they hurt their opponents mostly in counter-attacks. Muvattupuzha Nirmala College, meanwhile, is a team that takes the game to its opponents promising a captivating finale.
Underdogs MD College have been the fairytale of this season’s tournament. They conceded only once in four games, while scoring nine times knocking out GOAL-2016 champions NSS College, Manjeri, among others, in the process.
Nirmala have also scored and conceded similar numbers. But, having entered the tournament at the pre-quarters, they have played one match less. They are a side high on confidence, after thrashing 2016 runners-up Kannur SN College 4-0 to enter the final.
“MD College have players with better physique and a definite game plan. But, we will play our game and try to break down their defence. The margin of victory will be narrow and the team that scores first will have the advantage,” said Santhosh Joseph, coach of Nirmala College.
Jali P Ibrahim, the coach of MD College, says the system his team plays is the one that suits them the best. “I know the limitation of my players and we cannot sustain a possession-based game for 90 minutes. So, the best chance for us to win is to defend well and hit them on the counter,” Jali said.
MD College are into the first final in only their second appearance in GOAL, while Nirmala are seasoned campaigners who have reached the final once and knocked out in the last-fours thrice.
Fazil K M, a rock in MD’s defence, is expected to play despite a broken nose. But, Jali will have to deal with the absence of centre-back Haseeb who will be suspended for the final. For Nirmala, defender Anandhu S is doubtful after picking up a groin injury.
But, they will bank on an explosive attack featuring a front three of Jithin M, Abhiram Shaji and Sachin T Sivan, aided by attacking midfielder Gokuldeep E who scored a brace in the semifinal. MD will rely on their target man Ashique V V who has struck four times in four games.
Having reached the final of the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports national championship and won the MG University football championship, Nirmala will hope to sign off an impressive season by getting a hand on the last major trophy on offer.
However, MD are hopeful they could bring a halt to that run. “Our players are playing in a good atmosphere, close to our home and with support from the crowd. We have analysed how Nirmala have played so far, and have plans to deal with their threats,” said a confident Jali.