• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Services comeback to down Bengal, Meghalaya edge out Manipur and Railways stay in hunt

Services were the biggest winners on a day of upsets at the 76th National Football Championships for the Hero Santosh Trophy, ranging from mild to absolutely volcanic. Their victory over Bengal in the day’s opener now separates them from a chasing pack in a wide open Group B, with the other five teams separated by a mere two points.

Services 2 (P Christopher Kamei 41’, Bikash Thapa 82’)

Beat

Bengal 1 (Naro Hari Shreshta 14’)

Head coach Bishwajit Bhattacharya had hoped that a day’s rest, some contemplation and as many as five changes to his starting eleven would galvanise a Bengal side that looked lacklustre in their opener. It wasn’t to be.

Despite a bright start, where they pressed high and harried Services off the ball, Bengal were, for the most part, outthought if not outplayed by a Services team that is proving to be as clinical as they are classy. Naro Hari Shreshta’s third goal of the Final rounds, scored in the 14th minute looked to have set a Bengal resurgence up.

The goal itself came after a botched-up attempt by Services to play out from the back, defender Jijo Jerone misplacing a pass and conceding possession to Bengal who made no mistake in punishing them for it. From there, Services let their grit out on display. They pressed forward constantly, forcing, and hurrying Bengal’s midfield. And yet Bengal held out, ensuring that Services never really had a clear chance at goal, making them shoot from distance.

With barely five minutes to go for the break, a silly foul conceded by Bengal at the top of the box, gifted Services a free kick from 25 yards, and in perfect position for Christopher Kamei to have a pop at the target. He did it perfectly, slotting his shot into the far corner to draw his team level.

And yet, that goal did not kill Bengal’s spirits, and they came out for the second period the more energetic, Shreshta and Subrata Murmu in particular playing physically hard football to keep Services on their toes. Murmu in fact was played through on goal halfway through the period, had only the goalkeeper to beat to restore his team’s lead. Services goalkeeper and captain Bhabindra Malla Thakuri, a giant of a man anyway, extended himself fully, pulling off a brilliant one-on-one save to keep his side in the game.

It proved, quite literally, to be the game changer. Thakuri’s save recharged Services, who went on to score the winner in the 82nd minute, Bikash Thapa slotting home from close range after exchanging passes with Ronaldo Singh in the box. It was enough for Services to wrap up the three points.

Speaking after the game, Services coach MG Ramachandran acknowledged the advantage his team possessed, having not played the qualifiers for the Final rounds. “We are an unknown entity in many ways,” he said. “And this team is made up of boys who have played the National Games, and some entirely new boys, so it’s a good mix within the team itself. I hope they can keep progressing and get us to the knockouts.”

Meghalaya 1 (Brolington Warlarpih 62’)

beat 

Manipur 0

Manipur goalkeeper Ngamsanglena Haokip’s horrible error caused his team dearly as they went down to Meghalaya at the Capital Football Arena today. In a game that was always going to be decided on fine margins, Meghalaya were the ones who showed more attacking initiative, their wingers in particular, harassing the Manipur defence. For their part, Manipur’s attacking pair of Subhash Singh and Naocha Singh looked a shadow of the duo, who had terrorised Railways in the opener.

In the end, Haokip’s inability to cleanly catch (or even parry) Brolington’s 61st minute freekick, and instead spill it inside the goalline decided the game.

Delhi 0

lost to

Railways 1 (Nuruddin 45’ + 3’)

In the day’s other match, Delhi succumbed to a tame loss to Railways in the evening game at the Kalinga Stadium. Nuruddin’s goal on the stroke of halftime, was enough for Railways to take the win. For coach Mohammad Sabir, the loss was a setback from their invigorating display against Bengal, and means they are now bottom of the group, albeit separated from the second-place team by only two points.

( Source: AIFF)

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