Despite not being their fluent self, PC Riju’s 35th-minute goal guaranteed Southern Railway a 1-0 win over Food Corporation of India in the St Joseph’s-CFA Senior Division League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday.
Riju, Railway’s titular figure, was the obvious focal point of the contest. Every meaningful Railway’s thrust had Riju stamped over it. His first touch was invariably sweet, and apart from an attempted volley in the second half, his shots were measured and bore an enviable lightness that marks out better from ordinary players.
Not just his opponents, but also his own teammates couldn’t match his plane of vision or speed.
Often, he was stranded without a teammate on the opposite flank to complete his pass, and even when was afforded with the luxury, they were inept enough to not materialise Riju’s potent crosses. Understandably, Riju scored the only goal of the match, though it wasn’t peculiarly stunning sequence.
FCI goalkeeper B Vigneswaran unconvincingly intersected Siva Rajan’s cross and an alert Riju tucked it home. Though Riju came close to doubling the lead on numerous instances and thereby killing the contest, FCI clung on and ensured they were in the game till the last minute.
They had reasons to believe, for they came close to equalising on multiple occasions, only to be denied by the bar and their sloppy finishing. Sivapriyan’s header deflected off the post before Railway’s centre back T Joseph came up with a goal-line clearance to rescue Railway.
Southern Railway 1 (PC Riju 35) bt FCI 0; first division: Nethaji 2 bt Challengers Union 0.