Santosh Trophy
Shafeel's thunder strike helps Services lift Santosh Trophy the seventh time
09 Mar 2024

Services 1 (Shafeel PP 67')
Goa 0

Soumo Ghosh
AIFF Media Team

ITANAGAR: Services lifted the Santosh Trophy for the seventh time, beating Goa 1-0 in the 77th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy Final at the Golden Jubilee Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2024.

More than 15,000 passionate fans thronged the stadium to witness an exciting final, which had chances aplenty at both ends, but took a thunderous strike from Services' Shafeel PP to make all the difference.’

The match was watched by the honourable Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Mr. Pema Khandu, All India Football Federation President, Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, and members of the AIFF.

There were no final-day nerves from either side as the game started with end-to-end action, with both goalkeepers making some early saves. As early as the sixth minute, Vijay J's cutback was met by Samir Murmu's shot, which was easily saved by Antonio Inacio da Silva in the Goan goal. At the opposite end, Mahammad Faheez tried his luck from 20 yards only for Sayad bin Abdul Kadir to collect comfortably.

Then it was da Silva's turn to make a save again as he held Vijay's strike from the edge of the box. For Goa, Laximanrao Rane had the first real chance to score as he side-footed wide of the far post with only the goalkeeper to beat.

It was Goa who finished the first half stronger. Faheez's dipping cross from the right was met with a first-time right-footed shot from Necio Fernandes, but it was straight at Kadir. The Services goalkeeper was called into action again at the stroke of half-time, making a good save to keep out another Faheez effort from close range.

But the wind started to flow on Services' side in the second half as they started to pile more pressure on the Goan goal. In the 50th minute, Shubham Rana's left-footed strike from a narrow angle landed in the safe palms of da Silva.

Shafeel PP's moment of magic finally arrived in the 67th minute. Receiving a pass from Rahul Ramakrishnan around 25 yards out, the 26-year-old didn't think twice and struck it first time with his laces. The ball fizzed right into the bottom corner, leaving da Silva with no chance and putting Services into a deserved lead.

Barely two minutes later, Services custodian Kadir prevented a Goa equaliser as he dived low to parry a curling strike from Faheez.

In the 80th minute, Goa's substitutes almost combined for an equaliser as Clencio Pinto lobbed the ball for Joshua D'Silva, who chested it down before Kadir made himself big to thwart the danger.

Goa wouldn't go down without a fight and there were nerves in the Services box in the 87th minute. Mohamed Ali's header was met with a strong save from Kadir but Services failed to clear the danger, leading to a pinball in the penalty area before Vellington Fernandes sent a half-volley skimming over the bar.

Deep in injury time, Services defender Pardeep Kumar made a goal-line clearance worthy of a last-minute winner. Mohamed Ali climbed the highest to get on the end of a high cross, with his header beating Kadir's outstretched gloves before Pardeep arrived at the right time to hack the ball clear on the line.

But there was to be one last moment of drama and magic from Shafeel. As late as the 99th minute, Faheez made a sensational run, dribbling past three Services shirts to enter the box before chipping it over an onrushing Kadir, only for Shafeel to clear it off the line and win the title for his side.

Before the start of the match, AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey said, “This has indeed been special to host the 77th NFC for Santosh Trophy Final Round in Arunachal Pradesh. We want to thank the President of APFA and the Hon’ble CM of Arunachal Pradesh Shri Pema Khandu ji.

“We hosted the 76th edition of the Santosh Trophy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last year, in international stadiums, and with VAR technology. That set the standard. Now, I am happy to say that Arunachal Pradesh has very much upheld that standard. The deafening chants here in Arunachal Pradesh are being echoed across the world through FIFA+.”

The honourable Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Pema Khandu said, “I want to welcome AIFF President Shri Kalyan Chaubey ji and all the members of the AIFF, who have come to Arunachal Pradesh today. I want to thank AIFF for allowing Arunachal Pradesh to host this prestigious tournament, which is being witnessed across the world via FIFA+. Seeing so many football fans here, I am convinced that Itanagar deserves an even bigger football stadium, which we will dedicate to all the fans here.

AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey presented the Santosh Trophy to Services, the winners of the 77th edition of the National Football Championship.

Best Goalkeeper
: Sayad bin Abdul Kadir (Services)
Top scorer of the tournament: Phijam Sanathoi Meitei (Manipur) - 11 goals
Player of the tournament: Samir Murmu (Services)
Fair Play Award: Jharkhand

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