Services pip Kerala to Santosh trophy crown

The hosts were unable to clear the final hurdle as they lost on penalties to the two-time winners....

Services defeated Kerala 4-3 on penalties in the final of the 67th Santosh Trophy in Kochi, much to the agony of the fans present at the stadium.

For the visitors, Dhanji Singh, Sharwan Kumar, Dileep M and Kiran K Varghese scored while two shots were saved by Kerala custodian Jean Christian. For the hosts, Rino Anto, Abdul Basid and Sarath BT found the back of the net. This was their third Santosh Trophy title.   

The match was an end-to-end battle from the first whistle. The gallery was abuzz with the 35,000 odd fans cheering for the home team. Services got a golden opportunity in the sixth minute, but Lalian Mawia shot over from inside the box.

The first real chance for Kerala came in the 11th minute, when Kannan latched on to a cross from the midfield inside the opponent penalty box. However, Nano Singh, the Services goalkeeper showed his class to save his team from conceding an early goal. Usman then got a good chance, but his weak shot went straight into the hands of the busy custodian.

The second half was also similar as both the sides concentrated more on defending and keeping possession. Kerala’s defense looked solid, whereas Nano was superb between the bars for the defending champions. The battle in the midfield was intriguing, with both the teams read opponent’s game well, thus increasing the rate of interception.

In extra time, Kerala looked the more purposeful side. Not only did they raid the rival citadel frequently, but the hosts also defended sturdily. Goalkeeper Jean Christian deserves a special mention here for his couple of acrobatic saves.

Usman came closest twice in each half. His shot off Shibin Lal’s spadework flew inches over the bar in the dying seconds of the first half of extra-time. After the break, the striker’s effort hit the chest of the goalkeeper after he was set up by substitute Nazarudeen beautifully.

However, in the tie-breaker, Services had the last laugh. Kerala right-back Surjith’s shot hit the horizontal and the Services players, who had defended their crown successfully, erupted in unbridled joy.  

Services striker Lalian Mawia was adjudged the Man of the Match.          

Congratulating the Services team, All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das was ecstatic over the success of the final

"I congratulate the Services team for winning the 67th Santosh Trophy. It was a great game of football and I am overwhelmed with the turnout. It must be very motivating for the players as well playing in front of a full house. Overall, the ambience was amazing," said the AIFF official.

At the closing ceremony, the Chief Guest and Chief Minister of Kerala Shri. Oommen Chandy was introduced to the players of both the teams and officials.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by Mr. Das alongwith Shri. K. Babu, Chairman of the organising committee and Minster of Excise, Fisheries, and Ports of Kerala, Shri KMI Mather, President of Kerala Football Association (KFA) and Executive Chairman of the Organising Committee.

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