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Services qualify despite 1-1 draw with Maharashtra

Duler: Services qualified for the final phase of the Santosh Trophy 2019-20 after playing out a 1-1 draw against Maharashtra in the final match of West Zone Qualifiers Group A, at Duler Stadium, here on Monday. At half time, Maharashtra were leading by a solitary goal.

Both the teams finished with 10 points each but Services qualified with better goal difference. Services has a goal difference of +9, while Maharashtra has +6.

The defending champions made five changes to their side that beat Lakshadweep 2-1 in their last game, as keeper Vishnu VK, N Herojit Singh, Novin Gurung, Harikrishna AU and Muhammed Inayath found place in the starting XI. Whereas, Nichiket Palav, Kamran Ansari, Dhurwesh Nijap, Pragnesh Solanki, Allan Dias and custodian Aashish Awati made the cut for Maharashtra side who came back from a one-goal deficit to down Gujarat 3-1 in their last match.

With a must-win situation, Maharashtra started the match on an attacking note and won the freekick just outside the box in the 10th minute where Dion Menezes’ low freekick deflected off Services defender Anoop Pauly and went in his own goal to put the rivals into the lead.

Services made their first attempt in the 19th minute as Lallawmkima cut past an opponent and went for the glory from the top of the box only to see it fly over the crossbar. A few minutes later, they once again came close to scoring, as this time Muhammed danced past few opponents in the box and tried to find his teammate in the goalmouth with a cutback but Maharashtra defender Dion made timely clearance.

On changing the ends, Maharashtra had the best chance to double their lead in the 48th minute as their skipper Allan Dias made a perfect through-pass to Pragnesh in the box, but the forward shot wide from close.

At the other end, Services also came close to equalising when Maharashtra’s last line failed to clear Sushil Shah’s long freekick where Muhammed smartly chested down but his strike from inside the box was blocked by a rival defender for safety. Maharashtra once again made a dangerous attack on the rivals as Pragnesh made darting run from the halfway line and fired a powerful strike from inside the box, but his shot missed the target narrowly.

Services also had a chance to level the score in the 67th minute when they were awarded a freekick just outside the box. But Sushil’s goal-bound shot was brilliantly fisted over the crossbar by Maharashtra keeper Ashish for a corner.

Services finally managed to level the score in the 69th minute as Herojit’s strike from inside the box hit Maharashtra defender Nachiket’s hands where referee Rafeek Babu promptly awarded a penalty spot. Services’ Lallawmkima calmly finished the ball into the net from the spot to make it 1-1.

In the last quarter of the match, the proceedings took ugly turn as Services team manager Alakh Kumar Surya was sent off in the 85th minute for handling opponent player. Whereas, a few minutes before this Maharashtra head coach Yousuf Ansari was shown the yellow card for dissent.

In the dying minutes, Maharashtra tried to build up pressure on the rivals with continues attacks but the opponent’s defence line cleared every danger to help his side to qualify.

In the other match, Lakshadweep concluded their campaign with a fluent 3-1 win over Daman & Diu. Faizal Hussain, Abdull Nazar and Savad TI scored for the winners, while Raj Bhoir was the lone scorer for Daman & Diu.

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