Ludhiana: Services huffed and puffed and finally got over the line in a thrilling penalty shootout against a 10-man Karnataka side in the second semi-final of the Santosh Trophy at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Friday.
Services took the early lead with a Lallawmkima goal but Karnataka levelled the score in the 84th minute from a Nikhil Raj strike after going down to 10 men in the 70th minute as Ashik AS got the marching orders.
Karnataka, being the more attacking side, started the match off with their swift passing style moving the ball around the Services area. However, it was Services, who surged into the early lead on the seventh minute, when a cross from the right was controlled well by Lallawmkima inside the box as he slotted it into the far bottom corner of the net.
The side from South India continued to probe the Services third of the pitch throughout the match but failed to make much of an impression in front of goal.
Karnataka came out in the same vein of form in the second half as well, managing to launch attack after attack near the Services area. Forward Leon Augustine looked to be the biggest threat down the middle.
Near the hour mark, the striker even managed to drop his shoulders and jink past a couple of defenders before unleashing a shot that was smartly saved by Services keeper Vishnu VK.
However, Karnataka suffered a further disadvantage in the game in the 70th minute, when defender Ashik A S was sent off for a rash tackle near the Karnataka penalty area. While the resulting free-kick crashed into the wall, but a melee ensued that saw Karnataka defender Namgyal Bhutia clear the ball off the goal-line.
Against all odds, however, Karnataka clawed their way back when substitute Nikhil Raj ran through into the Services box and slipped it past the keeper with just six minutes of regulation time left.
As the match entered extra time, both sides attempted to take the lead but perhaps fatigue played its part as the intensity waned, especially towards the second half of extra time.
Karnataka started off the penalty shootouts on a low, as captain Vignesh Gunashekar sent his spot-kick crashing into the post. While Services scored all their four penalties in between, Karnataka substitute Manoj Swamy Kannan hit their fifth spot-kick wide, to send Services into the Final.
This victory means that Services have made it to the 11th Santosh Trophy Final in their history. They will now be gunning for their sixth title against hosts Punjab at the same venue on Sunday (April 21, 2019).