Siliguri, 7 March
Mizoram take on Railways in the summit showdown of the Santosh Trophy here on Sunday with the Northeastern state set to play in their maiden final of the national football championships. Mizoram rode on both grit and luck to edge past Tamil Nadu 3-1 in extra time in the first semi-final while Railways edged past Maharashtra 4-2 on penalties in the second semi-final at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here.
Some shoddy goalkeeping by Tamil Nadu custodian A Arun Pradeep coupled with a spirited second half display helped Mizoram rally to win the match.
Two-time finalists Tamil Nadu took the lead right at the stroke of halftime through A Reagan (45+1). But a rejuvenated Mizoram, aided by a goalkeeping gaffe, clawed back into the match courtesy a long range strike from substitute David Lalrinmuana (62nd minute) to take the match to extra time.
Two opportunistic strikes from Zico Zoremsanga (94th) and substitute F Lalrinpuia (119th) sealed the match in favour of Mizoram to the heartbreak of Tamil Nadu players. A delighted Mizoram coach H V Vanlalthlanga said, “It is a great moment for Mizoram. This is the first time we are going to play in the final and I feel the boys deserved it for their good showing throughout the tournament.”
In the second semi-final, Railways beat Maharashtra 4-2 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 in regulation time.
Railways goalkeeper Ehtesham Ahmed made two fine saves at the start of the shootout to deny Maharashtra’s Praneel Mendon and Vijith Shetty. Railways’ PC Riju, Raju Singh, Dipankar Das and Susil Kisku all converted their spot kicks leaving Paresh Shivalkar and Linekar Machado’s takes meaningless.
In regulation time, Mohammed Shafique gave Maharashtra the lead in the 24th minute with Railways’ Susil Kisku coming off the bench to equalise through a penalty in the 70th minute.
It stayed 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time.