TN up against fearless Maharashtra in semis

Services to play Goa in the other semifinals of the 70th Santosh Trophy football championship.

A Raegan (right) has struck form at the right time for Tamil Nadu.   -  S. Sudarshan

In form Tamil Nadu hopes to carry on the momentum when it takes on host Maharashtra in the semifinals of the 70th Santosh Trophy football championship at the SEC Railway stadium here on Friday.

It will be a match between the youthful exuberance of Maharashtra and tactical brilliance of Tamil Nadu. The South Zone champion did extremely well to top pool ‘B’ which was effectively the group of death as it had three former champions. The Tamil Nadu team has peaked at the right time and key players have pulled their weight when it mattered. Tamil Nadu coach Robin Charles Raja was also able to coerce the best out of his players and the team has shown flexible game plan against different opponents.

Watertight defence

Tamil Nadu’s biggest asset has been its watertight defence and it has so far managed to keep a clean slate in the tournament. The goalkeeper Sounesh has so far enjoyed the cushion provided by his back four. The midfield has been creative as well as tactful. However, the inconsistency shown by strikers can be forgiven after their second half exploits against Punjab.

Striker Raegan, a key figure in the scheme of things, struck form against Punjab. If Tamil Nadu players can replicate the flawless second half show against Punjab in the clash against Maharasthra, there is nothing which can prevent it from entering its third final in the history of the championship.

Maharashtra’s technical finesse

However, Tamil Nadu is up against a young Maharashtra side which has impressed everyone with its technical finesse. A young side which has plunged into no holds barred attack from the word go against its rivals, Maharashtra will be adopting the same strategy against Tamil Nadu. Coach Agusto D’Silva said that his team will be looking to play its trademark fearless game and his young squad has nothing to lose against Tamil Nadu. He also that said playing in front of supportive crowd will be a great motivation for his boys to do well in the semifinal.

Services faces Goa

Defending champion Services will face a Goan test as the two sides meet in the first semifinal. Services without setting the course on fire has been effective in this tournament. Services took the bull by its horns when it tamed the rampaging Maharashtra side in the league match. Services lost to Mizoram after it tested its bench strength and shielded a few injured players. The Services team was shaken and lacked ideas to stop the barrage of attack from Mizoram in the second half. Coach Shaji is not ready to dwell too much on the defeat and said his team was well prepared to challenge experienced and balanced side like Goa.

Goa, which mostly has Dempo players, entered the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy after a long gap. The Goans, with their wealth of experience in I-League and big tournaments, definitely have the edge over their rivals. But coach Alfred Fernandez was not ready to admit this, expressed caution and gave Services team its due respect. The Goan coach said that it will be big opportunity for his boys to end the title drought in this tournament. Keeping his cards close to his chest, Alfred downplayed injuries to four key players and said the best side would take the field against Services. Both coaches also expressed their displeasure over the early morning start to the semifinal but said they were left with no other option but to accept the new schedule put forward by the organisers.

Friday’s semifinal matches: Goa vs Services; Tamil Nadu vs Maharashtra.

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