Santosh Trophy qualifiers: Easy win for Services, TN made to sweat

Services, the winner of the last two editions of the Santosh Trophy, was authoritative in its 7-0 demolition of Telangana, while Tamil Nadu secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Lakshadweep.

Arjun Tudu of Services heads home his team's first goal against Telangana.   -  S. RAMESHKURUP

Services and Tamil Nadu were expected to have it easy on day two of the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifying tournament at the Corporation Stadium on Friday.

Services certainly had, but Tamil Nadu was stretched by a fighting Lakshadweep. The men from the islands lost 0-2, but they could be proud about their show against a stronger side.

When S. Shinu put Tamil Nadu ahead in the ninth minute — with a header off a neatly taken free-kick by V.R. Murugappan — many would have felt it would open the floodgates. But, the Lakshadweep players surprised everyone with its resilience; they defended stoutly, ran forward with aplomb and came close to equalise on a few occasions, too.

Just when it seemed they would lose only by a solitary goal, substitute K. Ajith Kumar made it 2-0 for Tamil Nadu. In what was the final minute of the injury time, he drove the ball firmly in after darting swiftly down the centre.

Services, the winner of the last two editions of the Santosh Trophy, was far more authoritative in its 7-0 demolition of Telangana. But for a superb display under the bar, especially in the opening half, by P. Srikumar, it would have been even more disastrous for Telangana.

Ironically, it was the first mistake by the goalkeeper that resulted in the first goal of Services. Srikumar failed to gather the ball properly and an opportunistic P. Jain scored.

Two minutes into the second half, Mohammed Irshad, whose hometown is not far from here, struck from close in to help Services go 2-0 up. And it proved an eminently forgettable second half for Telangana. Arjun Tudu and Mandeep Singh scored twice each.

There was also an own goal to complete a miserable day for Telangana.

In Saturday’s matches, Puducherry meets Karnataka and host Kerala faces Andhra.

The results: Services 7 (P. Jain 45+3, Mohammed Irshad 47, Arjun Tudu 62 & 90+4, Mandeep Singh 86 & 90+2, A.K. Bharath 90-og) bt Telangana 0.

Tamil Nadu 2 (S. Shinu 9, K. Ajith Kumar 90+5) bt Lakshadweep 0.

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