Friday , April 19 2024

Hosts Arunachal Pradesh show character on opening day of Santosh Trophy!

Hosts Arunachal Pradesh and Goa split points in a thrilling 3-3 draw on the opening day of Group A of the 77th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy Final Round at the Golden Jubilee Stadium in Yupia on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

On a historic day for Arunachal Pradesh football, more than 10 thousand spectators thronged the stadium to witness the Santosh Trophy in their state for the first time. The match did not disappoint either, a see-saw battle, at the end of which Rahul Goju Singpho’s last-minute header clinched a point for the hosts.

Singpho was the star of the show for Arunachal Pradesh, heading in an equaliser in the first half as well after Necio Fernandes’s opening goal for Goa in the 20th minute. The game remained a cagey affair until the hour mark when Arunachal’s Vivek Gurung was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Antonio Inacio da Silva. Midfielder Tame Agung stepped up and calmly sent da Silva the wrong way to put the hosts ahead.

Goa then turned the game around with two goals in quick succession, both architected by Mahammed Faheez. First, the forward lobbed goalkeeper Jagom Loyi from the edge of the box for the equaliser. Next, he raced to the by-line before putting a low ball across the face of the goal. After Laximanrao Rane’s initial effort was blocked, substitute Joshua D’Silva tapped in the rebound to restore Goa’s lead.

However, the passionate home crowd would not go home disappointed as Singpho stole a point for Arunachal with a perfectly placed header in the 96th minute. He got on the end of a looping cross from the left by Gurung after leaping above his marker to score and send the fans into raptures.

Perfect start for Kerala

Kerala, the champions from 2022, got off to the perfect start with a 3-1 win over Assam earlier. Abdu Raheem K’s stunning left-footed curler opened the scoring in the first half before a well-worked team move finished off by Sajeesh E doubled Kerala’s lead in the 67th minute. Dipu Mirdha’s solid strike onto the roof of the net 10 minutes later gave a ray of hope to Assam, but Nijo Gilbert put the game to bed for Kerala in injury time as he cut inside from the right and rifled it into the bottom corner.

Late penalty does the job for Services

Last year’s finalists Meghalaya and semi-finalists Services contested a closely-fought battle to kickstart the final round in the morning fixture. Just when it seemed the game was petering towards a stalemate, a Meghalayan handball gifted Services the chance to seal the win from the penalty spot, and defender Shafeel PP duly obliged with a 95th-minute conversion.

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