Santosh Trophy: Maharashtra, Services win again

In what was easily the liveliest match in the tournament, Mohammed Shahbaz bended it like Beckham from 30 yards to snatch the winner in the 66th minute for Maharashtra which recorded its third straight win.

Mohammed Shahbaz of Maharashtra (R) and Laltanpuia of Mizoram engaged in a mid-air duel.   -  S. Sudarshan

Mohammed Shahbaz scored a peach of a goal from a free-kick as 10-man Maharashtra overcame Mizoram 1-0 and assured itself of a place in the semi-finals from Group ‘A’ in the 70th Santosh Trophy National football championship at the SEC Railway stadium here on Friday.

In what was easily the liveliest match in the tournament, Mohammed Shahbaz bended it like Beckham from 30 yards to snatch the winner in the 66th minute for Maharashtra which recorded its third straight win.

The host was reduced to 10 men in the dying minutes of the first half when referee Maria Joseph red carded goalkeeper Owais Khan for stepping out of the penalty box while trying to thwart an attempt from Mizoram’s Laltanpuia.

The Mizoram side after an early flourish from Maharashtra, settled down to take control of the proceedings and kept the Maharashtra goalkeeper busy under the bar. Owais Khan made a reflex save in the 11th minute to deny Lal Thathanga. The goalkeeper again came to his side’s rescue when he denied Mizoram Laldingheta from close in the 33rd minute.

After losing Owais, Maharasthra cut out the frills and played a defensive game. Coach Augusto withdrew forward Shrikanth and sent in Floyd Dharmani to shore up the defence. Mizoram swarmed the rival half like busy bees in the second half but the Maharashtra defence rose to the occasion to weather the storm.

The winning goal came against the run of play off a counter attack when Raynier was fouled and Maharashtra earned a free-kick.

Local lad Shahbaz, who was troubled by an injured toe, wanted to come off but coach Augusto D’ Silva persuaded him to continue, stepped in to take the free-kick and curled it away from diving goal keeper Danglian to turn the contest on its head.

After the goal, the host defended in numbers and managed to keep the ball out of harm’s way. It made sporadic raids on the rival goal through moves initiated by Aaron D’Costa and Raynier Fernandez to keep the pressure on the Mizoram goal.

Shahbaz could have added another goal to his kitty but the he completely missed the ball with the Mizoram goalkeeper out of position as Aaron arrowed in a fine centre from left flank in the 75th minute.

Coach Augusto D’ Silva was pleased with the hard fought win which has taken his team into the semi-finals. “It was a decisive win against all odds. I had full faith in my boys. It was a superb goal by Shahbaz whom I had seen score such goals before,” said the coach.

The man of the moment Shahbaz said he had always backed himself to score goals from free-kicks and he didn’t do anything different as he had scored similar goals in the past.

Defending champion Services notched up its second straight win in Group ‘A’ with a 2-1 win over Railways. Vipin (14th) opened scoring for Services while Jagtar Singh equalised for Railways in the 51st minute. Vivek Kumar grabbed the match-winner in the 67th minute. This is second straight defeat for Railways.

Results

Maharashtra 1 (Mohammed Shahbaz 66) bt Mizoram 0.

Services 2 (Vipin 14, Vivek Kumar 67) bt Railways 1 (Jagtar Singh 51).

Saturday’s matches - Tamil Nadu v Goa; Assam v Punjab.