Herald: Goa lock horns with Punjab in semis

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Goa lock horns with Punjab in semis

19 Apr 2019 05:24am IST
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19 Apr 2019 05:24am IST
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The match kicks off at 8.30 a.m. while Karnataka take on Services in the second semis at 3.45 p.m.

AGENCIES, LUDHIANA: Santosh Trophy, the 78-year-old National Championship, has reached its business end of the 2018-19 season – the semi-finals, where Punjab, Goa, Services and Karnataka are set to fight it out on Friday, for a spot in the final.

The two traditional heavyweights of the Santosh Trophy – Goa and Punjab are set to face-off against each other in yet another thrilling clash. This encounter would normally be worthy of a final itself, as the eight-time champions Punjab take on five-time champs Goa at Gurunanak Stadium, Ludhiana, at 8.30 a.m.

“The boys have showed good signs in the Group matches and remaining unbeaten so far is another boost for us,” said Goa coach Samir Naik.

“I am confident with the boys that they will give their best though Punjab are strong side. But our boys are equally good,” added the coach.

After a rigorous number of Zonal Qualifiers, a total of 10 teams made it to the Finals. Services, Goa, Delhi, Meghalaya and Odisha were clubbed in Group A, while Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Sikkim and home side Punjab were placed in Group B.

Group A turned out to be a straightforward affair, with Services and Goa finishing with 10 points apiece, four ahead of their nearest opponents Delhi, with the former finishing as group champions by dint of a higher goal difference, as the two sides are tied on the head-to-head front.

It will be a special occasion for the Goa players, who will be observing the holy occasion of Good Friday after the completion of the match. With a comparatively more star-studded line-up, Goa will look to brighten their Good Friday celebrations on Friday.

While Sukhpreet Singh has been on form for Punjab, banging in three goals in the Group Stage, Goa will be banking on two of their big guns to get on the scoresheet. Their top scorer in the tournament so far has been 19-year-old Pune FC academy prodigy Lalawmpuia, who currently plies his trade at FC Goa Reserves in the Hero 2nd Division. The Mizoram-born striker has already scored four goals so far.

Apart from the exuberance of Lalawmpuia, Goa also have the experience of Joachim Abranches up front. The 33-year-old has brought in his years of experience at top clubs like East Bengal, FC Pune City, and FC Goa to score three goals.

The mix of youth and experience of Goa, and the vigour of a home side that already has plenty of experience in winning the Santosh Trophy could make this a mouth-watering affair. Goa will 

Group B was a more complicated affair, as Punjab, with the support of the home crowd behind their back, shot ahead of the rest of the pack on the last matchday, beating Karnataka 4-3 in a thrilling encounter. While the hosts topped the group with nine points, both Karnataka and Maharashtra finished with seven points apiece, the latter thrashing Sikkim 5-0 to reach their current tally.

The two sides had drawn their game, and had even finished the group equal on goal difference. However, Karnataka went through as they had scored one goal more in the entire group.

With the semi-finals all set to kick-off, let’s take a look at the two exciting matches that will decide the finallists of the 2018-19 Hero Santosh Trophy.

Services have been on fine form in the Group Stage, where the finished without a single loss. In fact, they only dropped points against a formidable Goa side, against whom they drew 1-1. The Group A toppers have exhibited a sturdy backline, letting in only two goals in their four matches so far, keeping two clean sheets in the process.
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