Services edge Mizoram to reach Santosh Trophy final

Services edge Mizoram to reach Santosh Trophy final

Itanagar, Mar 7 : Six-time champions Services advanced to the final of the 77th NFC for the Santosh Trophy on Thursday at the Golden Jubilee Stadium here.

Reduced to 10 men in the 88th minute, Services ended Mizoram’s fine run in the tournament with a 2-1 victory in the day’s first semi-final, courtesy goals from Rahul Ramakrishnan (21’) and Bikash Thapa (83’). Malsawmfela (90+3’) scored the only goal for Mizoram.

This is the 12th time Services have made the final of the Santosh Trophy.

The dominance of Services was evident from the start as they controlled the tempo with authority, though the Mizoram’s defence managed to hold firm.

Services displayed their intent as early as in the 6th minute with Vijay’s dynamic run down the right wing. He was all set to get the first shot on target but was denied by a resolute Mizoram defence.

In the 8th minute, Samir Murmu’s attempt to break the deadlock sailed high over the bar. However, both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the midfield, lacking the final touch in the attacking third.

It was Services, who eventually found the breakthrough in the 21st minute. Capitalising on a cross from the left, Rahul calmly slotted the ball into the top corner with a clinical left-footer.

Mizoram posed a real threat for the first time in the 24th minute when Malsawmtluanga’s free-kick narrowly missed the target. Services goalkeeper Sayad Bin Abdul Kadir judged the ball well, making a slight jump to his right to gather it cleanly.

Services continued to dominate and came close to doubling their lead in the 28th minute through a well-worked move on the right flank.

However, Vijay failed to keep his shot down. Services, undoubtedly, were the superior side in the first 45 minutes. With solid defence and effective ball distribution, they kept Mizoram at bay for much of the first 45 minutes.
Services continued to harass the Mizoram defence with Vijay and Murmu at the helm. In the 65th minute, Murmu’s shot from inside the box stretched Mizoram goalkeeper Lalmuanawma fully, but it couldn’t fetch a goal.
In the 83rd minute, Services doubled their lead. Substitute Bikash Thapa won the ball inside the box and then calmly slotted it into an empty net after Muanawma rushed out to leave the area open.

Before the start of the injury time, tension flared up between Services defender Zothanpuia and Mizoram forward Malsawmfela, resulting in the former receiving a straight red card, while Malsawmfela was cautioned with a yellow card.

Malsawmfela, however, demonstrated a moment of exceptional skills by converting a free-kick from the edge of the box with a remarkable shot thus salvaging some amount of pride for his team.


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