Riding on Arjun Tudu’s double strike, Services today retained the Santosh Trophy National Football Championships title after beating hosts Maharashtra 2-1 in the summit clash.
Tudu, a national camper for the SAFF Cup last year, scored twice in the space of 11 minutes (26th and 37th) to help Services clinch their fifth title overall at the SEC Railway Stadium. Mohammed Shabaz had given Maharashtra the lead in the 15th minute.
Services took away Rs 5 lakh for winning the tournament while Maharashtra got Rs 3 lakh for finishing runners-up.
It was Maharashtra who surged ahead in the 15th minute. The diagonal release from Mervin Stephen’s outstep of the right foot from just outside the box was just perfect.
Shabaz, with a sudden burst of speed sneaked in between the two defenders, chested it down and blasted it into the Services net.
Services equalized 11 minutes later. The speed of Tudu created ripples all throughout the tournament and the final was no different. Francis Zununtluanga laid it for Tudu who made no mistake to place it to the right of a diving Owais Khan.
In the 37th minute, a defensive lapse inside the Maharashtra box presented Tudu a chance and from nowhere, he had goalkeeper Owais at his mercy. Typical of a poacher, Tudu guided it into the deep corner of the net.
Changing over, Francis intercepted a loose ball and sped past the entire Maharashtra defence and had it not been for Owais rushing out in time, the match may have been settled by the 50th minute itself.
Maharashtra regrouped and with Services preferring to push back, the second session was mostly confined to Services’ half except for some counter attacks. Services intended to play it long behind the Maharashtra defence for Tudu to run past them.
Backed by the home crowd who were growing impatient with every minute, Maharashtra pressed and earned their chances too. They failed to utilise a couple of free-kicks from just outside the box, blasted the side netting from close and sometimes preferred to hold on to the ball for that shade too long allowing the rival defence to regroup.
Services were even reduced to 10 men in the 88th minute when Hardik Kanojiya was flashed the red card. There were anxious moments inside the Services box but eventually, it did not change the scoreline.