Tamil Nadu who looked more purposeful in the first half, should have gained the lead much earlier. In the 20th minute, Nirmal Kumar broke free as James chased but his tap from the top of the box went wide. Nirmal had all the time to go past goalkeeper Basant Singh but he wasn’t willing to. And then, four minutes later, Jayakumar after being set in the clear by John Paul, shot straight to Basant from a hand-shaking distance. Manipur fizzled out a bit as the game progressed in the first half. But a Govin Singh header off a corner and a Boy Singh free-kick from just outside the box deserve mention.
Enjoying a one-goal cushion at the interval, Tamil Nadu went into a defensive shell in the second half. The strategy allowed the Manipuris that extra bit of space in the midfield. Manipur’s best chance went abegging in the 61st minute – Boy Singh failing to trap a centre from the left and Tamil Nadu goalkeeper Akhil Soman thwarted the danger. That apart, there were quite a few anxious moments in the Tamil Nadu box and Manipuri striker Thoi Singh’s diving header even entered the net only to be disallowed for off-side. Tamil Nadu sealed the fate in the 85th minute, a counter-attack doing the trick for them. Substitute M. David finished it off as he slotted past Basant Singh.
Now Tamil Nadu will try to win their first-ever Santosh Trophy title, but Services are in the way of the young team from down south.
The final, which kicks-off at 18.00 IST on Tuesday, April 28 will be telecast live on DD Sports.
Published with permission from Arunava about Football.