The hosts will face Kerala in the last four…

Super-sub Akeraj Martins and Cajetan Fernandes scored in the dying minutes of the match as they booked Goa’s semi-final berth with a comeback 2-1 win over the defending champions Services in the 71st Santosh Trophy match played at GMC Stadium Bambolim earlier today. 

The defending champions were low on confidence after a 2-0 defeat against Meghalaya in the last match while the hosts were in need of a point from this match.

Services coach Priya Darshan made only one change to their side from the previous match as defender Ayush B found his name in the Services’ starting XI, While Latesh Mandrekar and Glan Martins replaced injured Francis Fernandes and Leander D’Cunha in Goa’s starting XI.  Goa coach Mateus Costa also brought in Bruno Colaco replacing Melroy Fernandes in between the sticks.

It was a first half full of actio as both the teams played some brilliant football. Services were the first one to see at the goal when Jain P tried his luck from distance but Goa keeper Bruno easily collected it. A few minutes later, Services surprised the home supporters by taking the lead. Jain set up a perfect through pass to Arjun Tudu who nicely finished it in the bottom corner and took his side into an early lead.

Down by a goal, Goa quickly replied with a quick attack but Aaren D’Silva’s shot hit the defender and went out for a corner. They came up with one more attack when Melvin Lobo made a perfect pass to Liston Colaco. The striker dribbled past few defenders and shot on the goal but Services keeper Vishnu easily collected and kept his side safe.

On 20 minutes Services came up with one more open chance when Tudu found N Herojith Singh in the box leaving all Goan defenders helpless but Goa keeper Bruno brilliantly blocked Singh in a one-on-one situation. Ten minutes later, Singh was in the action again when he made an easy tap in the goal to Jain’s diagonal pass but he failed to beat the offside trap as the assistant referee was quick to lift the flag.

Goa could have scored the equaliser on the counter attack when Liston made a darting run on the wing cutting past few defenders on the way and found Latesh Mandrekar, who shot it wide from inside te box.

In the dying minutes of the first session, once again Goa were in a commanding position but first, Aaren shot wide from close and later Peter’s header was cleared off the line by Services defender Rary Raj.

After wasting so many chances, Goa went into halftime a goal down. However, the second half saw lots of action from the hosts. Services were seen busy defending but they also managed to keep equal pressure on Goa with counter attacks. With 22-odd minutes left on the clock, Services were reduced to 10 men. Services skipper Raj was given his marching orders after the referee booked him the second time for a rough tackle on substitute Leander.

Despite having a disadvantage in the player count, Services defenders managed to hold the hosts until the last ten minutes. Meanwhile, Goa tried hard to find the equaliser as they were seen in the opposition’s half most of the time and finally found one with just seven minutes left on the clock. Substitute Akeraj Martins found himself at the receiving end of Peter’s long pass and lobbed advancing Services keeper Vishnu.

When it was looking like the match will end up in a draw, Cajetan Fernandes scored the winner for the hosts and confirmed Goa’s semi-final clash with Kerala.

Goa gaffer Cost was happy with the performance of his side and praised them saying, “My boys are very much capable of doing very good and that’s what they proved today. Even when they were down by a goal, they never gave up and kept on attacking. My boys were not in a hurry as they were dominant everywhere and knew that they will come back.” 

In the other match played at Tilak Maidan Vasco, West Bengal beat Meghalaya 2-0 and topped Group A. Shaikhom Singh and Manvir scored one in each half for the eastern state.

West Bengal will face Group B runners-up in the first semifinal while the second semi-final will be played between Goa and Kerala at the GMC Stadium Bambolim on the 23rd of this month.