CHENNAI: Goa barely managed to edge last year’s runner-up Services 1-0 and enhanced its chances of a semifinal berth in another Group B match of the National football championship for the Santosh Trophy at the floodlit Nehru stadium on Friday.
Considering that Services was down to 10 men by the 12th minute of the match after a touch of indiscretion by goalkeeper Robikanta Singh who got a red card, it was an unimpressive display by the Goan side.
But then Services, true to its background, fought brave-heartedly and even came close to neutralising the lead. Even the goal that came looked a gift from Services’ defender Dilip whose attempt to clear the ball from the feet of Climax Lawrence in the danger area only deflected in off the latter’s legs. Nothing more need be said of the gumption of the Services bunch.
Services should not have had this plight but such was the run of play that triggered a momentary madness in an otherwise efficient Robikanta who charged out seeing danger in the form of Marcus Mascarenhas in front. No defenders were there for support.
As Marcus tried to lob the ball, the Services goalkeeper held out his hands and blocked what looked a goal-bound effort, when he was at least two strides outside the box.
Referee G. Sharma of Manipur could not immediately gauge the seriousness of the situation but seeing the Goan players pleading rushed to consult Assistant Referee Pradeep Kumar and returned to take out the dreaded card.
Services brought in substitute goalkeeper Sujan Suku by sacrificing the one-time hero Ralenga, who anyway hardly shone here.
Though a man short, the Services players showed iron resolve. Even though Goa gained freedom in finding spaces and weaving patterns, the progress met hurdles in the face of a determined rival. Even close skirmishes at the Services goalmouth failed to fructify for Goa.
By the later stages Services even dared a few attacking designs.
By far the best effort came from Mahesh Rai whose 40-yarder try all but beat goalkeeper Felix D’souza. Services now faces a must-win task in its next outing for a semifinal hope.
Goa 1 (Climax Lawrence 57th) bt Services 0
Saturday’s matches: Manipur v Tamil Nadu (4 p.m.); Punjab v West Bengal (6.30 p.m.).