The Santosh Trophy, the 78-year-old National Championship, has reached its business end of the 2018-19 season — the semi-finals. Punjab, Goa, Services and Karnataka are set to fight it out on April 19 for a spot in the final.
Punjab and Goa, the two traditional heavyweights are set to face-off against each other in the first semifinal while Services and Karnataka lock horns in the second.
The encounter between Punjab and Goa would be worthy of a final itself, as Punjab has been crowned champions eight times while Goa, five times.
While Sukhpreet Singh has been in form for Punjab, scoring three goals in the group stage, Goa will be banking on two of its big guns to get on the scoresheet. Its top scorer in the tournament has been 19-year-old Pune FC academy prodigy Lalawmpuia, who currently plies his trade at FC Goa Reserves in the 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.
In the other clash, Services have been on fine form in the group stage, where it finished without a single loss. In fact, it only dropped points against a formidable Goa side, against which it drew 1-1. The Group A topper has exhibited a sturdy backline, letting in only two goals in its four matches so far, keeping two clean sheets in the process.
Meanwhile, its attack, ably led by Lallawmkima and Bikash Thapa, has fired on all cylinders.
Karnataka, on the other hand, will be banking on its strong attack-line too, that has so far scored the highest number of goals so far – 12. Its defence is an issue as it has let in seven goals in four matches.
It looks to be an enterprising affair between the attack and the defence in the second semifinal that kicks-off in the afternoon.