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Punjab will cross swords with Services in Santosh Trophy final

Balbir Singh | April 19, 2019 10:00 PM

LUDHIANA: Punjab stormed into  their 15th Hero Santosh Trophy final on Friday at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, beating traditional rivals Goa by a 2-1 margin.  It will give some solace to Punjab, who had lost to Goa 0-1 in the 1983-84 Santosh Trophy final, reports AIFF. Harjinder Singh scored the winning goal on this occasion to put the home side into the final.

 Punjab will now face Services on April 21. Services have made it to the 11th Santosh Trophy Final in their history by beating a 10-man Karnataka side in a thrilling penalty shootout against a in the second semi-final. Services will be gunning for their sixth title.  

 Punjab started off the match with great gutso plunging into the attack from the get-go.The home side was heavily reliant on their wide players Sunny and Jaspreet Singh. Both the wide players toiled hard to generate swift attacks, aiming the ball at the heavily-marked striker Vikrant Singh.

 However, it was Jaspreet, who sneaked into the box from the right, and nodded in a cross from the left flank to put Punjab in the lead in the 12th minute.

The Goans were shell-shocked, but they picked up the pace soon. Their striker Lallawmpuia dropped deep to get more involved in the build-up play, which helped them gain more possession over the ball. A foul near the Punjab penalty area towards the end of the first half gave the Goans the perfect opportunity to score the equaliser. However, 19-year-old Lallawmpuia looped his free-kick a couple of feet over the bar.

 Goa came out in the second half all guns blazing, as they laid the proverbial siege on the Punjab goal. Punjab attempted to clog the away side out in the middle with four midfielders, while Jaspreet and Sunny operated the flanks as Vikrant played the targetman.

 Goa finally got the breakthrough with a minute of regulation time left of the clock, when Joachim Abranches got a shot through a melee of legs in the Punjab box. Keeper Satbir Singh parried it straight to substitute Ronaldo Oliveira, who tapped it into the net.

 It took Punjab just a couple of minutes to get their lead back, when Mohd. Asif sent in an indirect free-kick which was nodded in by Harjinder to take the tie away from the Goans.

Services huffed and puffed and finally got over the line in a thrilling penalty shootout against a 10-man Karnataka side in the second semi-final.

Services took the early lead with a Lallawmkima goal but Karnataka levelled the score in the 84th minute from a Nikhil Raj strike after going down to 10 men in the 70th minute as Ashik AS got the marching orders.

Karnataka, being the more attacking side, started the match off with their swift passing style moving the ball around the Services area. However, it was Services, who surged into the early lead on the seventh minute, when a cross from the right was controlled well by Lallawmkima inside the box as he slotted it into the far bottom corner of the net.

The side from South India continued to probe the Services third of the pitch throughout the match but failed to make much of an impression in front of goal.

Karnataka came out in the same vein of form in the second half as well, managing to launch attack after attack near the Services area. Forward Leon Augustine looked to be the biggest threat down the middle.   

Near the hour mark, the striker even managed to drop his shoulders and jink past a couple of defenders before unleashing a shot that was smartly saved by Services keeper Vishnu VK.

However, Karnataka suffered a further disadvantage in the game in the 70th minute, when defender Ashik A S was sent off for a rash tackle near the Karnataka penalty area. While the resulting free-kick crashed into the wall, but a melee ensued that saw Karnataka defender Namgyal Bhutia clear the ball off the goal-line.

Against all odds, however, Karnataka clawed their way back when substitute Nikhil Raj ran through into the Services box and slipped it past the keeper with just six minutes of regulation time left.

As the match entered extra time, both sides attempted to take the lead but perhaps fatigue played its part as the intensity waned, especially towards the second half of extra time.

Karnataka started off the penalty shootouts on a low, as captain Vignesh Gunashekar sent his spot-kick crashing into the post. While Services scored all their four penalties in between, Karnataka substitute Manoj Swamy Kannan hit their fifth spot-kick wide, to send Services into the final.

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