Twenty-year old Lalian Mawia starred with two sweet goals and an assist as holders Services shot down 10-man Punjab 3-1 to set up a summit clash with hosts Kerala in the 67th Santosh Trophy here on Friday.
The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium saw the second semifinal too move into extra time as the men from the armed forces clawed their way back from a goal down to pip seven-time former champions Punjab who were a man down for more than an hour of the two-hour contest.
Services have made the final of the national football championship for the eighth time, after having claimed the title for only the second time last year at Cuttack. They will meet Kerala for their third crown on Sunday.
Super-sub Mawia, touted as the next big thing for Services, came on in the 79th minute with his team trailing by a 20th minute goal from by Punjab forward Vijay Kumar. Mawia pulled his team level on 86 minutes, beating punjab keeper Paramjit Singh on his near post with a clean right-footer from the left of the box. After the first half of extra time failed to produce a goal, Services surged ahead in the 108th minute as the spirited Dhanji Singh tapped in a Mawia cross from the left.
With just three minutes remaining, Mawia drove home the final nail in the Punjab coffin with a sharp shot from outside the box that nestled in the top corner. Earlier, Punjab looked more than a match for the defending champions, pressing forward with their traditional long-ball game.
Even as the four-man Services midfield struggled to get their leading striker Farhad V V on the ball as often as their coach Sajith Kumar would have liked, Punjab midfielders kept their shape and threatened with Taranjit Singh stretching the rival defence wide on the right.