Santosh Trophy 2024: Goa, Services win, book berths in semifinals (Ld)

Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), March 4 (IANS) Goa and Services booked their respective spots in the semifinals of the 77th National Football Championships for Santosh Trophy, by defeating Delhi and Railways, respectively, in contrasting styles here on Monday.

While Services made it to the semis for the third time in the last four editions of the tournament, Goa qualified for the last-four stage of the competition for the first time in seven years.

Jobern Cardozo and Lloyd Cardozo scored a goal each as Goa came back after conceding early to beat Delhi 2-1 on a cool evening at the Golden Jubilee Stadium. A crafty side, Goa looked to amass possession in the Delhi half and play the ball around, while their opponents attempted a much more straightforward approach, looking to hit them on the break.

This approach paid dividends for Delhi early in the game, when they won a corner, which was whipped in by Dhruv Sharma. Mohd Aqib rose high at the far post and headed the ball across the face of the goal. Sahil, alert at the other side, nodded it in from inside the six-yard box. If there was any complacency within Goa before, Delhi’s goal would have shocked every inch of it out of them. The side from the west coast exercised control over the game and looked to dominate Delhi, who, for a while, were doing well to keep them at bay.

Set-pieces were, however, the order of the day, as it was from two corners that Goa managed to turn the game around. Delhi goalkeeper Raj Kumar Mahato attempted to punch Mahammed Faheez’s corner out, but a miscued fist meant that the ball landed in a meleé just outside the six-yard box. Jobern remained alert and blasted it into goal once the opportunity presented itself to him.

Just as the game was approaching the half-hour mark, Faheez produced a perfect delivery from the corner again, which landed just a yard ahead of Lloyd Cardozo at the near post. The midfielder half-volleyed it with his side foot to beat the Delhi keeper at the near post and put his side in the lead.

Goa could have doubled their lead when Faheez’s long-range shot was tipped onto the woodwork just before halftime by Mahato, who did brilliantly to save the follow-up shot on the rebound by Lloyd Cardozo from point-blank range.

Goa took control of the game in the second half, using their crafty play to keep Delhi from creating many chances. However, the side from the capital did get their chances, the best of which came 20 minutes from the final whistle, when Mohit Mittal hit the post from outside the box, before Sridarth Nongmeikapam’s free-kick just a minute later, was palmed away by a diving Antonio Dylan Inacio Da Silva.

Services overcome Railways 2-0

Earlier in the day, six-time winners Services put up a commanding display in the first quarterfinal when they defeated three-time winner Railways 2-0. Both goals came in the first half.

Forced to play second fiddle for most of the match against a rampaging Services, the railwaymen were swept off their feet as early as in the ninth minute when a foul in the area allowed the winners to take the lead through a penalty converted by Shafeel PP. Another goal came almost at the stroke of halftime; a brilliant effort by Samir Mumru saw Services increase their lead.

That Services, who made the semi-finals in the last edition too, were the better team on the pitch was clear from the very beginning. In the sixth minute, midfielder Rahul Ramakrishnan had a probing ball in his possession on the left and as he was cutting in, Railways defender Nitesh Kumar Yadav challenged him in a manner that didn’t receive the referee’s approval.

Defender Shafeel PP, who stepped in to take the spot kick had the goalkeeper Raja Barman beaten convincingly on the right, but the referee ordered the kick to be retaken as one of the Services players rushed inside the box even before the shot was taken. Unperturbed, Shafeel slammed the ball in once again, this time on the left.

Services were mostly creating trouble for the rival defenders from the left. The Railways’ defence looked harassed and managed to survive till the 45th minute. However, they had no answer to the goal scored by Samir Murmu, which was a spectacular effort. Latching on to the ball on the right, Murmu took an angular shot that entered the goal, almost kissing the far post.

Railways are three-time former champions who also finished runners-up on six other occasions. Over the years, railways have produced some legendary players, PK Banerjee, Arun Ghosh, and Prasanta Sinha, to name a few. But on Monday, they were not in their element and did little to stretch the Services defence. The red-shirted Services were all over the pitch and could have won by a bigger margin had they not missed a few chances.



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