Jumat, 01 Maret 2013

67th Santosh Trophy: Services need extra-time to overcome Punjab, face Kerala in final

The neutral crowd at the Jawaharlal Stadium was today treated to another cliffhanger as defending champions Services came back from behind to beat 10-man Punjab 3-1 in the second semifinal of the 67th Santosh Trophy in Kochi. Services now meet co-hosts Kerala in the final on Sunday, March 3.

Punjab looked the more purposeful side in the opening exchanges of the tie and were rewarded for their attacking intent in the 20th minute when Rohit's header from Taranjit Singh's pass took a deflection off Vijay Kumar's chest to enter the goal. Two minutes later, Harnek Singh's boys almost doubled the lead. Gagandeep Bali took a sharp turn inside the box after being fed by Taranjit from the right flank, but his effort was inches wide. Taranjit was impressive down the right flank sending in smart crosses which at times looked threatening. One such floater was met by Rohit in the 35th minute but his strike missed the target by a whisker.

The defending champions were denied room in the middle of the park which has been there key operation area with fleet footed players like Shadip Rai and Z.V. Horin deprived of space to orchestrate goalmouth chances. The two chances that befell upon them were in the 40th and 45th minute respectively. First it was V.V. Farhad who missed a gilt-edged opportunity from close range. His bungle was followed by Horin's strike which went agonizingly off target.

Playing a high line post the breather, Services got their first real chance to equalise in the 52nd minute when Farhad released Subrata Sarkar on top of the box. But the latter tried to improvise with a backheel which backfired. Sanjith Kumar's wards played with more intent stringing together passes cohesively.

Things turned dicey when Taranjit was given marching orders in the 57th minute after being booked for the second time in the match for play-acting. Services capitalised on the numerical advantage in the dying minutes of the match with substitute Lalian Mawia equalising in the 86th minute. It stayed one-all in regulation time and the match went into extra-time.

In the end Taranjit's untimely exit was a big blow for Punjab and proved to be detrimental in their quest for a place in the finale as Dhanji Singh and Lalian Mawia scored in the span of nine minutes of the second half extra-time to dash Punjab's hopes of a final berth after hanging on to their 20th minute lead commendably well in spite of being a man down early in the second half.

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