Nagpur: Services and Maharashtra will play in the summit clash of the 70th National Championship for the Santosh Trophy after they won their respective semifinals here yesterday.
Four-time champions Services stunned formidable Goa 1-0 in the first semifinals while Maharashtra beat Tamil Nadu by a similar margin in the second semifinals at the SEC Railways Stadium. Interestingly, the lone goals in both the semifinals were own goals. The summit clash will be held on March 13. The first semifinal went into the extra time with both Services and Goa failing to score in the 90 minutes of play.
Services dominated the match but could not enforce a win in the normal time and they had to wait till the 115th minute when in a desperate attempt to clear, Goa's Mohammed Ali kicked it into his own net.
Services looked more organised with someone always present to support the other. Vivek Kumar and Francis Zoununtluangn rotated in the midfield with local boy Hardik Kanojia providing able assistance.
Man of the Match Arjun Tudu, who was summoned for the national camp prior to the SAFF Cup, proved to be a constant thorn for the Goan team. He impressed with his speed, relentless pressing and never say die attitude. Goa, despite boasting of four international players in their ranks, were not able to match their opponents. They relied more on counters then on direct attacking. In the second semifinals, an own goal by Tamil Nadu's Prem Kumar in the 58th minute settled the issue in favour of hosts Maharashtra.
Maharashtra are making an appearance in the final for the 16th time having won four times and lost 11 times previously. After a goalless first session, Maharashtra mounted pressure after the lemon break.
Maharashtra's Vijit Shetty, Mohammad Shabaz Pathan and Aaron D'costa struck a good combination with short passes and often penetrated the rival territory.
Their efforts bore fruit when Shetty lobbed a ball and Tamil Nadu keeper Arun Pradeep could not anticipate and was almost deceived but the ball hit the bar. As the rebounded ball rolled toward the net, Tamil Nadu's Prem Kumar tried to clear it from the box, but in the process it went into the net, giving Maharashtra a 1-0 lead. Tamil Nadu made all out efforts to equalise but failed in their efforts.