Services made it to the final phase, while Lakshadweep made history. There was plenty of action indeed on the final day of the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifying tournament at the Corporation stadium on Tuesday.
Services, the champion side in the last two editions of the Santosh Trophy, had needed only a draw to qualify, but it showed its class by defeating Tamil Nadu 2-1, and that too after trailing till seven minutes into the second half.
That was after Lakshadweep stunned Telangana 1-0. The men from the small islands will never forget that match; it was the side’s first ever win on a football field.
K.P. Ummer’s goal was, in fact, Lakshadweep’s first ever. And it was a lovely goal too; he slammed the ball into the roof of the net from inside the box off a rebound, following the corner-kick taken by Abdul Nassar.
For a team which comes from an archipelago whose population is less than 65,000, it was a proud moment indeed. Remember, Telangana’s population is over 3.5 crore. And this was Lakshadweep’s first tournament.
Services and Tamil Nadu have, of course, been around for decades. The two teams had played in the final phase last year. This year Tamil Nadu will not be there: only one team from either Group will qualify.
Tamil Nadu had beat Services to advance. When it went ahead in the 32nd minute — through a fine carpet drive by A. Jacksan Dhas from 25 yards away — its hopes must have soared.
But, Arjun Tudu, who was the best player of the final phase of the last Santosh Trophy, equalised for Services in the 52nd minute, driving the ball in from just outside the box. It was his fourth goal of the tournament, making him the top-scorer.
Tudu also caused the winning goal. It was a foul on him that earned Services a penalty kick, which was converted in the 71st minute by Britto.
Kerala had already qualified, from Group A.
The results: Group B: Services 2 (Arjun Tudu 52, Britto 71) bt Tamil Nadu 1 (A. Jacksan Dhas 32).
Lakshadweep 1 (K.P. Ummer 54) bt Telangana 0.