Services take on Kerala in first Santosh Trophy semifinal
By Nilanjan Datta
CUTTACK: The heat wave hits you the moment you step out. You get pierced by hot needles all over. You look around and find women of all ages, faces covered, to protect themselves from the heat. Males obviously don’t have that luxury. A few kilometers away, the Mahanadi, more pebbled than wet, too seems to be bearing the brunt of the summer.
The evenings, however, stay pleasant. A cool breeze blows across and the towers lit up. Even as the cycle of the seasons can’t help us prevent summer from invading our lives, organisers certainly can plan better -- as they have here for the 66th Santosh Trophy. Matches are being played under the lights, the kick-off slated as late till 6.30pm.
West Bengal and Santosh Trophy have been synonyms over the years. But in the 66th edition, West Bengal would have to be content on watching from the sidelines as Kerala, Services, Manipur and Tamil Nadu would be battling it out for the top honours – all at Barabati Stadium which till the other day, played host to SRK’s Kolkata Knight Riders.
In the former capital of Odisha, the Dahi Sharbats for a moment prompt you to believe not all is bad about summers. You look further, and you find football – the two teams gearing up for a slot in the final of the historic tournament.
Both Services and Kerala have come with a mission. For most of the talented Services footballers who don’t splurge out to play club football in the I-League, the Santosh stays the platform to make a mark. They have been consistent over the years, one has to admit.
“We will play attacking football. That has been our style and we will stick to it,” commented V Sajith Kumar, the Services Coach. “We will stick to the same combination which played in our last match,” he said.
The vastness of the country and commitment to one’s service often pits an individual planning the downfall of his own home state. Sajith, himself a Keralite, laughs it off. In fact, it isn’t him alone. Services also boast of four footballers from Kerala in their first XI.
Kerala Coach MN Jacob stays a bit cautious. “We are confident but not over confident. In such a match, there’s no room for complacency,” Jacob maintained. “The flanks stay an important proposition in our plans,” he added.
“It’s hard to play consecutive matches but the positive it’s helped us to sort out the perfect combination. We’ve no complaints.”
The history book points out Services enjoying an edge against Kerala. Stay certain, Services are not banking on history and Kerala stay desperate to turn tables around. The Historic Barabati Stadium awaits the kick-off at 6.30pm (May 25, 2012).
Total Matches: 10
Matches won by Services: 4
Matches won by Kerala: 2
Goals scored by Services: 14
Goals scored by Kerala: 7
February 6, 1958 (Hyderabad):
Services 1 (Janardhan) beat Kerala 0
LAST THREE MEETINGS:
November 1, 2002 (Imphal):
Kerala 3 (Asif Saheer – brace; Ajayan)
Services 2 (Johnny Gangmei, Preetam Bahadur)
October 28, 2004 (Delhi)
Kerala 2 (Abdul Noushad, Nousdah Pari) beat Services 0
June 7, 2008 (Srinagar)
Services 3 (S Raleng – hat-trick) beat Kerala 0
HIGHEST MARGIN OF VICTORY:
October 22, 1959 (Nowgong)
Services 4 (Puran Bahadur – brace; Kaziponi, Moloy Lahiri)
Beat Kerala 0