The Hindu (Mumbai)

Services beats Mizoram, Goa stages stirring fightback

- Amitabha Das Sharma

A 10man Services held off a late resurgence from Mizoram for a narrow 21 win in the first semifinal of the 77th National Football Championsh­ips for the Santosh Trophy here on Thursday.

Rahul Ramakrishn­an and substitute Bikash Thapa scored one apiece in either half to give Services a twogoal lead. Substitute Malsawmfel­a pulled one back for Mizoram in injurytime but failed to fetch the equaliser as Services successful­ly thwarted the late surge from the NorthEast powerhouse.

The win took the sixtime champion Services to its 12th final in the long his

Thapa scores Services’ second against Mizoram.

tory of the tournament.

Services controlled the proceeding­s from the very start and appeared more cohesive in its attacks and defensive organisati­on.

Services had a chance in the first quarter of the action, but Mizoram’s defence countered the offensive that saw Vijay J. moving close to the goal.

Services finally got the break in the 21st minute when leftback Subham Rana moved up the flank to set up Ramakrishn­an with a sharp cross. The latter controlled the ball well while shielding his marker and finished with a leftfooted drive.

Services continued to hold strong after the break and doubled the lead in the 83rd minute when Bikash Thapa, a 74th minute substitute, pounced on a backpass that the Mizoram goalkeeper F. Lalmuanawm­a failed to control and slotted home the insurance goal.

Malsawmfel­a then found the net from a freekick three minutes into added time and almost found the equaliser in the last minute of play. But Shafeel P.P. saved the situation for

Services, clearing Malsawmfel­a’s header from the line.

In the other semifinal, Goa staged a stirring comeback against Manipur to post a similar 21 win. The North East team thought it had the match in the bag after it held on to its lead following Ngangbam Pacha Singh’s 18th minute strike.

But Necio Maristo Fernandes had other ideas. The midfielder’s first drew Goa level in the sixth minute of added time in the second half to take the match into extra time before netting the winner in the 116th minute.

The result: Semifinal: Services 2 (Rahul Ramakrishn­an 21, Bikash Thapa 83) bt Mizoram 1 (Malsawmfel­a 90+3); Manipur 1 (Ngangbam Pacha Singh 18) lost to Goa 2 (Necio Maristo Fernandes 90+6, 116).


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