Friday, March 31, 2023

Santosh Trophy: Services beat Punjab 2-0 to finish third

With a clinical performance, former champions Services claimed third place in the 76th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy after beating Punjab 2-0 in the playoff match at the King Fahd International Stadium, here on Saturday.
Services played a high-press game, took an early lead and kept Punjab under pressure throughout the 90-minute encounter. They established early midfield ascendancy and maintained their shape throughout the match. Punjab, on the other hand, looked totally unmotivated after their semi final defeat and could not produce their usual game of attacking with the aerial balls.
P.R. Shafeel opened the score for Services in the 7th minute and P Christopher Kamei scored their second goal in the 60th minute to seal victory for the team representing the defence outfits which had last won the title in 2018-19.
Services could have scored more goals but their forwards missed several chances. Punjab goalkeeper Shamsher Singh Mahala pulled off a couple of good saves while skipper Rajat Kumar made a brilliant goalline save in the second session.
Services were more cohesive in their attacks while Punjab looked totally dispirited and could not produce their usual game. They are a depleted side anyway after being forced to leave four first-choice players back home because of visa issues. They were further demoralised after losing their semifinal to Meghalaya on Wednesday.
Punjab had topped their preliminary group and also the Final Round pool as they made a hash of the confidence gained in the first two rounds. But the change of personnel and coach for the knockout matches in Riyadh resulted in them failing to live up to expectations in both the matches they played in Riyadh.
Services, on the other hand, joined the tournament in the Final Round in Bhubaneswar and topped their pool ahead of Meghalaya. They had only one poor match, as they conceded midfield advantage and failed to pressure Karnataka’s defence in the second semifinal.
On Saturday, they did not make the same mistake and kept the Punjab defence under pressure from the start of the match.
“We knew that Punjab’s defence is a little bit suspect and therefore we applied high press from the start. Though we could not achieve our original goal, we are happy to end the match on a winning note,” said Services coach M.G Ramachandran after the match.


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