MALAPPURAM: Services booked a place in the final leg as goals from Arjun Tudo, Sandip Rai and Vivek Kumar helped them overcome Tamil Nadu 3-1 in the 69th Santosh Trophy Group B qualifiers at the District Sports Council Stadium in Manjeri on Tuesday.
Tudo put Services ahead in the early minutes of the f i r s t - h a l f b e f o r e G Pravenndran cancelled out the lead in the 24th minute. Rai then regained the lead for Services in the 56th minute, and Kumar ensured the victory with a swerving header 14 minutes from time.
The Group B final contest, expected to be a clash of powerhouses, often failed to live up to its billing in the first-half, barring the second minute goal which came out of a misunderstanding between the Tamil Nadu players than from a calculated move by the Services.
Needing only a draw to progress to the next round, Tamil Nadu, who are now out of the tournament, will be cursing themselves for failing to convert a slew of chances that came their way. Services were just lucky to go ahead after two minutes of the first-half. It all started when Tamil Nadu’s Wayne Antonio D Silva left the ball in his box for keeper B Vigneswaran to catch.
But Tudo pounced on the chance to put services into an early lead. However, Tamil Nadu didn’t panic as they strung together passes around to find the equalizer, but they lacked the penetration power to breach Services’ defense. Tamil Nadu restored parity in the 24th minute through Praveendran. Praveendran himself initiated the move, giving an inch-perfect cross to an unmarked S Sandosh Kumar. Sandosh coolly put the ball back to P Sudhkar, but his direct shot ricocheted off Services’ defender before falling to the feet of Praveendran who blasted home the leveller. Service sprung back to life and looked on the ascendancy after this goal.
They wrested back the lead in 56th minute when Rai turned home a pull back from fellow player from the right wing. Moments later, Lalramnieg Mawia crossed the ball for Vivek from the right flank to head home from close and seal the victory.