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Santosh Trophy | Services gets the better of Mizoram, to meet Goa in final

March 07, 2024 07:08 pm | Updated March 08, 2024 12:20 am IST – YUPIA (ARUNACHAL PRADESH)

Forward Bikash Thapa scores Services’ second against Mizoram in the semifinal of the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia, Arunachal Pradesh, on Thursday, 7 March 2024.

Forward Bikash Thapa scores Services’ second against Mizoram in the semifinal of the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia, Arunachal Pradesh, on Thursday, 7 March 2024.
| Photo Credit: RITU RAJ KONWAR

A 10-man Services held off a late resurgence from Mizoram for a narrow 2-1 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 eihter half to give Services the two goal lead. Substitute Malsawmfela pulled one back for Mizoram in injury-time but failed to fetch the equalizer as Services successfully thwarted the late surge from the North-East powerhouse. The win took the six-time champion Services to its 12th final in the long history 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 left-back 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 left-footed 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 back-pass that the Mizoram goalkeeper F. Lalmuanawma failed to control and slotted home the insurance goal.

Services players celebrates after entering the final beating Mizoram in the semifinals of the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia in Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, 07 March 2024.

Services players celebrates after entering the final beating Mizoram in the semifinals of the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia in Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, 07 March 2024.
| Photo Credit:
RITU RAJ KONWAR

Mizoram had introduced Malsawmfela in the 71st minute, and the burly striker caused problems with his physical play. Services lost defender Zothanpuia in the 88th minute when he retaliated against a Malsawmfela body check and was red carded.

Malsawmfela then found the net from a free-kick 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.

Later Goa outlasted a spirited Manipur 2-1 in the extra-time in the second semifinal. Substitute Necio Fernandes was Goa’s star performer. He first got the equalizer in injury-time to cancel Manipur’s first-half lead, and then found the winner late in extra-time.

Goa made early inroads, but Manipur found the break in the 18th minute when N. Pacha Singh’s pile-driver from around 30 yards broke the defences of Goa goalkeeper Antonio Da Silva.

This incident continued to separate the two sides till late in injury-time (90+6 minute) when Joshua D’Silva nodded down a midfield lob for Necio Fernandes to finish with a spectacular bicycle kick.

Goa players celebrate after winning the semifinal against Manipur during the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia, Arunachal Pradesh, on Thursday, 7 March 2024.

Goa players celebrate after winning the semifinal against Manipur during the 77th Santosh Trophy football in Yupia, Arunachal Pradesh, on Thursday, 7 March 2024.
| Photo Credit:
RITU RAJ KONWAR

Necio then got at the end of a Joshua D’silva cross to fire the winner home. Manipur could have pushed the match to tie-breakers, but Da Silva put a valiant effort to deny Maibam Singh the chance to find the equaliser.

The results: Semifinals: 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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