Football

Services emerged the winner of the 73rd Santosh Trophy

Services won their sixth Santosh Trophy title with a slender 1-0 victory over home side Punjab, thanks to a second-half strike by Bikash Thapa at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana. With this victory, the side has now gone the stretch of the final rounds without losing a single match.

Now, Services for winning their 5th Santosh Trophy title in the last 8 editions. They have won each of the last 5 Santosh Trophy finals that they’ve played in, after winning just 1 in the previous 6 before that.

Services were dominant in the contest right from the beginning, managing to not just hold the Lion’s share of possession but also spending most of their time in the opposition half. However, the side did not manage to create many clear-cut chances and this resulted in the score line being goal-less at the stroke of halftime.

After the changeover, Services came out with a clear intent to go ahead in the game. Again, it was their wing-play that helped them in their endeavors. Lallawmkima found himself on the edge of the Punjab area with the ball. He squared it to Bikash Thapa, who slotted it into the bottom corner. A shirtless celebration meant that Thapa had to go into the referee’s books.

That goal gave Punjab the initiative to go looking for the equaliser, and striker Vikrant Singh came oh-so-close with around 15 minutes of regulation time to go. Turning in the centre-circle, he spotted that the Services keeper Vishnu VK was off his line, and chipped the ball towards goal. The ball eventually plonked on the cross-bar and went out of play.

In the semi-finals earlier, eight-time champions Punjab had defeated five-time winners Goa 2-1 to enter their 15th final. Services beat Karnataka 4-3 in the semis via a penalty shootout to book a place in the title clash for the 11th time. Two favorite states Bengal and Kerala knocked out in qualifying round. Services Captain Suresh Meetai as a Man of the Match and Arif Shaikh of Maharashtra with 9 goals awarded as highest goals scorer of the 2018-19 session Santosh Trophy tournament.

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