Maharashtra to play holders Services in 70th Santosh Trophy final

Mumbai, March 11: The Maharashtra juggernaut charged into the final by rolling over Tamil Nadu by a decisive 1-0 margin in a semi-final match of the 70th National Football Championship (final round) for the Santosh Trophy, conducted by WIFA under the auspices of AIFF, and hosted by NDFA and played at the SEC Railway ground, Nagpur, on Friday afternoon.

The dominant Maharashtra outfit after frittering away a couple of clear scoring opportunities in the first period, finally found success for their brilliant showing in the 58th minute. Striker Shakti Singh’s snap rasping drive struck Tamil Nadu defender Prem Kumar and took a wicked deflection before logging into the corner of the net to bring cheer in the Maharashtra camp. Seasoned midfielder Vijith Shetty, who played an inspirational role in the Maharashtra attack, was adjudged ‘Man of the match’.

Augusto D’Silva, who was making his debut as Head Coach of the Maharashtra team was overjoyed with the win. “This is was a creditable display from my boys. It was a strong collective performance and had we converted all our chances, we would have won by a more comfortable margin,” said an elated D’Silva, who was a prolific goal-scorer for Central Railway, during his playing career.

“I’m now looking forward to the final and I’m confident that the boys will rise to the challenge and put up a much better and improved showing,” said the Maharashtra coach.

Maharashtra will be playing in the summit round after 11 years. They had lost to Goa 1-3 (full time 1-1) in the final in 2005-2006, in Kochi, Kerala. The last time Maharashtra won the Santosh Trophy was when they defeated host Kerala 1-0 in 1999-2001 finals in Thrissur, Kerala.

In Sunday’s final, Maharashtra will cross swords with defending champions Services who overcame Goa by a solitary goal (1-0) scored in extra time, after regulation period finished goalless, in the first semi-final played earlier in the morning.

Had Services capitalized on their chances they could have won the match during normal period but their perseverance eventually paid off in the 115th minute when Goa defender Mohammed Ali under pressure and in a desperate attempt to clear, kicked the ball into his own net. Arjun Tudu of Services was declared the ‘Man of the match.’

Earlier, before the kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed as a mark of respect for former India International and Maharashtra star forward Amar Bahadur Gurung, who passed away on Wednesday.

Semi-final Results: Maharashtra 1 (Shakti Singh 58th) beat Tamil Nadu 0

Servives 1 (Mohammed Ali – OG 115th) beat Goa 0.

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