The neutral crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday was treated to a cliffhanger as Services came back from behind to beat 10-man Punjab 3-1 in the second semi-final of the 67th Santosh Trophy here.
Services now meet hosts Kerala in the final on Sunday (March 3, 2013).
Dhanji Singh and Lalian Mawia scored in the span of nine minutes of the second half of 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.
Vijay Kumar’s early lead was cancelled out by Services’ substitute C.Lalian Mawia in the 86th minute. Taranjit Singh was sent off due to double booking in the 57th minute. The teams were locked 1-1 after regulation time.
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. Bali Gagandeep 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 playacting. Services capitalised on the numerical advantage in the dying minutes of the match with substitute Lalian Mawia equalising. Taranjit’s untimely exit was a big blow for Punjab and in the end proved to be detrimental in their quest for a place in the finale.
(AIFF Press Release)