Category: Domestic

TRAU FC win 2nd Division League, qualify for I-League

NEW DELHI: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) lauded Manipur club TRAU FC for winning the 2nd Division League 2018-19, and qualifying to the next edition of I-League.

They are the second club from the state after NEROCA FC, to have qualified for the I-League from the second tier in three years.

TRAU FC defeated Ozone FC 2-1 at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal today (May 19, 2019) to clinch the championship with one match left. TRAU FC have amassed 15 points from 5 matches (so far), whereas second-placed Chhinga Veng FC are on 10 points having played an equal number of matches.

Sunando Dhar, CEO, I-League said: “Congratulations TRAU FC for the achievement. I’m sure the I-League will be more competitive and challenging next season with their inclusion. I wish them all the best for the next endeavour.”

Keegan Pereira signs for Jamshedpur Football Club

Jamshedpur, April 24, 2019: Jamshedpur FC have completed the signing of Indian defender Keegan Pereira on a one-year deal. Born in Mumbai, Keegan has a pedigree of representing top tier clubs in Indian football.

Keegan primarily a left back, started his footballing journey with Mumbai FC in the I-League and is remembered for his famous winning goal against Salgaocar in Cooperage stadium. He then went on to play for Salgaocar, DSK Shivajians and Bengaluru FC with whom he went on to win the I-League twice 2013-14 and 2015-16 season and the Federation Cup twice in 2014-15 and 2016-17 season.

He started his stint in the Indian Super League with Mumbai City FC (2015) and then went on to win the coveted trophy with ATK in 2016. His last stint was with NorthEast United where he played an important role in their first ever playoffs qualification last season. Keegan has represented the national team 4 times and made his debut against Laos in 2016.

On signing with Jamshedpur FC, Keegan added, “I am looking forward to my new home Jamshedpur FC. I enjoyed playing in front of such a massive crowd at JRD Stadium last season and I hope this upcoming season they will continue to support the team and me so that together we can win silverware for the club. The facilities in Jamshedpur are excellent and I am really looking forward to visiting the city soon.

Personally, have been following Jamshedpur FC since their inception and their progress over the last two seasons have been heartening.” Jamshedpur FC, CEO, Mukul Choudhari added “Keegan is a proven talent and we are very pleased to call him a Jamshedpur FC player. He has been a key individual for all the teams he has represented throughout his career and is well accustomed to Indian Football. We are sure he will be a fantastic signing and will add great value to the team. We welcome him to Jamshedpur FC.”

Bikash Thapa scores the winner as Services clinch sixth Santosh Trophy title

LUDHIANA: Services won their sixth Hero Santosh Trophy title with a slender 1-0 victory over home side Punjab, thanks to a second-half strike by Bikash Thapa at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, on Sunday (April 21, 2019). With this victory, the side has now gone the stretch of the final rounds without losing a single match.

Incidentally, the last time Services played in the Santosh Trophy Final was in 2015, at the same venue and against the same opposition, a match that they won 5-4 on penalties after it ended 0-0 post extra time.

It was a somewhat slow start to the game as both the sides looked to measure each other up before committing themselves. Home side Punjab had more initiative during the opening exchanges, managing to get a few shots on goal.

However, as the match wore on, Services started to gain more composure and built their own articulate attacks down the flanks. This wing-play almost resulted in a goal right at the end of the first half.

Bikash Thapa was played through on the right as he entered the box, sold a dummy to a Punjab defender and crossed to Harikrishna AU who scuffed his shot.

After the changeover, Services came out with a clear intent to go ahead in the game. Again, it was their wing-play that helped them in their endeavours. Lallawmkima found himself on the edge of the Punjab area with the ball. He squared it to Thapa, who slotted it into the bottom corner. A shirtless celebration meant that Thapa had to go into the referee’s books.

That goal gave Punjab the initiative to go looking for the equaliser, and striker Vikrant Singh came oh-so-close with around 15 minutes of regulation time to go. Turning in the centre-circle, he spotted that the Services keeper Vishnu VK was off his line, and chipped the ball towards goal. The ball eventually plonked on the cross-bar and went out of play.

Punjab looking to carry on Santosh Trophy legacy through coach Harjinder Singh

LUDHIANA: Apart from the Goa, West Bengal, Kerala and the North East, the state of Punjab has always been a hotbed for talented footballers. The likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet Singh, and Balwant Singh are some of the players that are lighting up Indian football at the international level.

The Hero Santosh Trophy, that has acted as the National Championship played between different states has also seen a number of great performances by Punjab over the years. While Bengal have won the trophy an overwhelming number of times (32), Punjab are second on that list with eight titles.

Under the coaching of Harjinder Singh, Punjab have made it to the Final of the Santosh Trophy for the second time in five years and face Services in the championship game at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Sunday, April 21.

Incidentally, the same two opponents squared off against each other in 2015 at the same venue, an occasion when Services came out champions, winning 5-4 on penalties. Harjinder Singh, who was the Punjab Head Coach in 2015 as well, however, does not believe in going for revenge in this crunch match.

“It’s not about avenging a defeat. Both our teams were on equal terms that day, and they kept their nerves during the penalties,” he said. “We have to make sure that we play better in the match and win the trophy. I believe the side that makes fewer mistakes will win. My lads are all ready to fight and give their 100 per cent in the final.”

FROM A FOOTBALLING DYNASTY

Harjinder Singh, who is also the Honorary Secretary of the Punjab Football Association, along with being the Head Coach, hails from a family that is all to well known to Indian football fans, being the son of the great Inder Singh. The former India striker had etched his name in history books when he became the joint-top scorer of the 1964 AFC Asian Cup, along with Mordechai Spiegler of Israel. Later, Inder Singh also went on to win the Santosh Trophy with Punjab, the most famous of his exploits coming in 1974, when the North Indian state beat the then mighty Bengal team by a whopping 6-0 margin.

Inder Singh himself had netted 23 goals in the tournament, a feat that has never been matched in 45 years.

“We have always had great players coming through from Punjab,” said Harjinder. “It was not just my father. You look at the JCT Academy; it has given us so many top-flight footballers over the decades.”

A RESURGENCE OF SORTS

While Punjab has won the Hero Santosh Trophy eight times, the state is currently going through an 11-year drought; their last victory came in 2008, when they beat Services 1-0 in Srinagar. Since then they have made it to the final only on one other occasion, making a victory against Services on Sunday imperative.

“The result of the final will purely depend on what strategy the two coaches apply, and how the players respond to the instructions that are given to them,” said Harjinder. “At the end of the day, I, as a coach, can only get satisfaction if my players grow and enjoy the game themselves.

“I would like to urge all the fans, especially the youngsters in Ludhiana and Punjab to come and support the team. But most of all, I would urge them to appreciate good football, even if it comes from the opponents,” Harjinder signed off.

Punjab bank on home support in Santosh Trophy final against Services

LUDHIANA: After 12 rigorous days of the final phase, Ludhiana is all set to witness the Hero Santosh Trophy 2018-19 final at the Guru Nanak Stadium where home side Punjab face off against Services at 3.30pm on Sunday (April 21, 2019).

Being the home side, Punjab have enjoyed the rapturous support of the local fans, something that propelled them to gain the last-gasp win in their last two games – against Karnataka in Group B and against Goa in the semi-final.

“Of course, playing in our home ground brings its own advantages. We will have the support of the local people behind us which gives a lot of motivation to the players”, said Punjab assistant coach Bikramjit Singh on the eve of the match.

Services Head Coach Parshuram Salwadi echoed Bikramjit’s feelings, saying that having a packed stadium behind them would be a key advantage for Punjab.

“Playing a team like Punjab will be very tough in the Final, especially with the home support. We faced them in 2015, but it will be different this time as they are the home team. This is their biggest strength,” said Salwadi.

The two teams had previously faced off in the final four years back in the 2014-15 season, a match that also incidentally took place at the same venue. While the match itself remained goalless, Services triumphed in penalties by a 5-4 margin.

“We have more flair than them. We’ve already beaten them on a few occasions before. But we need to be careful. They have also beaten us in the 2014-15 Santosh Trophy Final, so we cannot take them lightly”, said Bikramjit.

“They have very good coordination in attack. We brought the whole team to the stadium to watch their semifinal against Karnataka and explained to them how they generate their attacks. So we have made our plans for them accordingly,” he continued.

Services have been one of the most consistent sides in the Final Round of the 2018-19 Hero Santosh Trophy so far; they have been unbeaten in their five matches thus far, netting 11 while conceding just three.

“Definitely, our defence has done really well. We have seen that our team can score at any time. But if we stay strong defensively, it will give our attackers that platform to go on and do well,” added Salwadi, “Having said that, we have also scored 11 goals so far, so we will definitely not hold back. So, you can’t say that we are a defensive side.”

Punjab will be at a slight disadvantage with regards to player availability as their young right-back Chetan Kumar has been ruled out due to a knee injury which he suffered while going for a tackle in their semi-final against Goa.

However, with the home advantage behind Punjab’s back, anything could be possible in the high-intensity final.

Services shootout Karnataka to reach Santosh Trophy final

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 Hero 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).

Harjinder Singh’s last gasp goal send Punjab into Santosh Trophy final

LUDHIANA: Punjab made it through to their 15th Hero Santosh Trophy final on Friday at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, beating traditional rivals Goa by a 2-1 margin.

It will give some solace to Punjab, who had lost to Goa 0-1 in the 1983-84 Santosh Trophy Final.

Harjinder Singh scored the winning goal on this occasion to put the home side into the final.

Punjab started off the match with great gutso plunging into the attack from the get-go.The home side was heavily reliant on their wide players Sunny and Jaspreet Singh. Both the wide players toiled hard to generate swift attacks, aiming the ball at the heavily-marked striker Vikrant Singh.

However, it was Jaspreet, who sneaked into the box from the right, and nodded in a cross from the left flank to put Punjab in the lead in the 12th minute.

The Goans were shell-shocked, but they picked up the pace soon. Their striker Lallawmpuia dropped deep to get more involved in the build-up play, which helped them gain more possession over the ball. A foul near the Punjab penalty area towards the end of the first half gave the Goans the perfect opportunity to score the equaliser. However, 19-year-old Lallawmpuia looped his free-kick a couple of feet over the bar.

Goa came out in the second half all guns blazing, as they laid the proverbial siege on the Punjab goal. Punjab attempted to clog the away side out in the middle with four midfielders, while Jaspreet and Sunny operated the flanks as Vikrant played the targetman.

Goa finally got the breakthrough with a minute of regulation time left of the clock, when Joachim Abranches got a shot through a melee of legs in the Punjab box. Keeper Satbir Singh parried it straight to substitute Ronaldo Oliveira, who tapped it into the net.

It took Punjab just a couple of minutes to get their lead back, when Mohd. Asif sent in an indirect free-kick which was nodded in by Harjinder to take the tie away from the Goans.

With this win, Punjab have now entered their 15 Hero Santosh Trophy Final.

Punjab face Goa, Services take on Karnataka in Santosh Trophy semis

LUDHIANA: Hero Santosh Trophy, the 78-year-old National Championship, has reached its business end of the 2018-19 season – the semi-finals, where Punjab, Goa, Services and Karnataka are set to fight it out on Friday, April 19 for a spot in the final.

After a rigorous number of Zonal Qualifiers, a total of 10 teams made it to the Finals. Services, Goa, Delhi, Meghalaya and Odisha were clubbed in Group A, while Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Sikkim and home side Punjab were placed in Group B.

Group A turned out to be a straightforward affair, with Services and Goa finishing with 10 points apiece, four ahead of their nearest opponents Delhi, with the former finishing as group champions by dint of a higher goal difference, as the two sides are tied on the head-to-head front.

Group B was a more complicated affair, as Punjab, with the support of the home crowd behind their back, shot ahead of the rest of the pack on the last matchday, beating Karnataka 4-3 in a thrilling encounter. While the hosts topped the group with nine points, both Karnataka and Maharashtra finished with seven points apiece, the latter thrashing Sikkim 5-0 to reach their current tally.

The two sides had drawn their game, and had even finished the group equal on goal difference. However, Karnataka went through as they had scored one goal more in the entire group.

With the semi-finals all set to kick-off, let’s take a look at the two exciting matches that will decide the finallists of the 2018-19 Hero Santosh Trophy.

SEMI-FINAL 1: PUNJAB VS GOA

Time: 8.30 am

Venue: Gurunanak Stadium, Ludhiana

The two traditional heavyweights of the Santosh Trophy are set to face-off against each other in yet another thrilling clash. This encounter would normally be worthy of a final itself, as the eight-time champions Punjab take on five-time champs Goa.

It will be a special occasion for the Goa players, who will be observing the holy occasion of Good Friday after the completion of the match. With a comparatively more star-studded line-up, Goa will look to brighten their Good Friday celebrations on Friday.

While Sukhpreet Singh has been on form for Punjab, banging in three goals in the Group Stage, Goa will be banking on two of their big guns to get on the scoresheet. Their top scorer in the tournament so far has been 19-year-old Pune FC academy prodigy Lalawmpuia, who currently plies his trade at FC Goa Reserves in the Hero 2nd Division. The Mizoram-born striker has already scored four goals so far.

Apart from the exuberance of Lalawmpuia, Goa also have the experience of Joachim Abranches up front. The 33-year-old has brought in his years of experience at top clubs like East Bengal, FC Pune City, and FC Goa to score three goals.

The mix of youth and experience of Goa, and the vigour of a home side that already has plenty of experience in winning the Santosh Trophy could make this a mouth-watering affair.

SEMI-FINAL 2: SERVICES VS KARNATAKA

Time: 3.45 pm

Venue: Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana

Services have been on fine form in the Group Stage, where the finished without a single loss. In fact, they only dropped points against a formidable Goa side, against whom they drew 1-1. The Group A toppers have exhibited a sturdy backline, letting in only two goals in their four matches so far, keeping two clean sheets in the process.

Meanwhile, their attack, ably led by Lallawmkima and Bikash Thapa, has fired on all cylinders. Their best moment came in their last Group B game against Meghalaya, which they won by a whopping 5-0 margin.

Karnataka, on the other hand, will be banking on their strong attack-line, that has so far scored the highest number of goals in the 2018-19 Santosh Trophy Finals, so far – 12. Defence has been a bit of an issue for this side though, as they have let in seven goals in their four matches. They were, in fact, leading Group B for most of the part, but finished second after losing 3-4 to Punjab in the last game.

It looks to be an enterprising affair between the attack and the defence in the second semi-final that kicks-off in the afternoon.

Bengaluru FC B finish 2nd Division campaign unbeaten

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC B ended their Hero 2nd Division League campaign unbeaten after a comfortable 2-0 win over FC Goa Reserves in their final group stage game at the Bengaluru Football Stadium, on Saturday.

Goals from Edmund Lalrindika (4’) and Naorem Roshan Singh (50’) handed Naushad Moosa’s boys their seventh win in Group A, the most in this season’s competition across all three groups. In fact, in taking their tally to 22 points and scoring 26 goals the Blue Colts logged the best numbers in the group stage despite Group C having six teams playing ten matches, two more than the Colts.

Fielding a strong team, the Blue Colts took an early lead when Edmund picked up a stray ball off a failed clearance on the right before sprinting toward the edge of the box in the 4th minute. The striker then hammered a powerful shot past Shubham Dhas in the Goa goal at the far post for his second goal in as many games.

Bengaluru continued to dominate proceedings thereafter and created a host of chances. The closest they came to the second was midway through the half when skipper Myron Mendes’ inch perfect cross from the left was headed inches wide by Leon Augustine at the far post after the winger managed to get a good connection on the dive.

The second half too saw an early goal, and once again it was BFC B who managed to find the back of the net. Roshan picked up a pass from Edmund inside the box on the left before finishing off at the far post with an outside the boot finish in the 50th minute.

The Blue Colts continued to push ahead with intent and midfielder Sairuat Kima almost got the third. Left-back Parag Shrivas made a solo run down the left before cutting in and firing a low shot on the goal which Dhas parried away. The ball fell for Kima whose shot on the slide came off the upright.

Ten minutes from the final whistle, the hosts had another chance when Namgyal Bhutia’s freekick from 30-yards was palmed onto the crossbar by Dhas who somehow managed to avoid a disaster.

The game took an ugly turn late on as both teams ended the game with ten men after BFC B’s Sairuat Kima and Goa’s Sarineo Fernandes were sent off in the final minutes of the second half.

Bengaluru FC B stretch unbeaten run to seven games after 3-1 defeat of Lonestar Kashmir

Katra, Jammu and Kashmir: Bengaluru FC B ensured a finish on top of the Group A table of the Hero 2nd Division League with a 3-1 win over LoneStar Kashmir at the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Sports Complex in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir, on Wednesday. First-half goals from Advait Shinde (6′), Edmund Lalrindika (19′) and Myron Mendes (39′) gave the Blue Colts their sixth win in seven games in a competition where they are yet to be beaten.

The win took Naushad Moosa’s team, who have one game in hand, to 19 points – seven more than second-placed FC Goa Reserves who they will take on in their final game at the Bengaluru Football Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday. Goa have two games in hand, including the one against BFC B, and can reach a maximum of 18 points.

Despite the far from ideal pitch conditions, Bengaluru got off to the perfect start, when Shinde ghosted past the Lonestar central defenders to pick a pass from Mendes before slotting home with ease. Lalrindika soon made it 2-0 when he raced and latched on to a long pass from the Amal Das and finished past the Kashmir ’keeper.

Unable to handle Bengaluru’s pace, Lonestar conceded a penalty in the 39th minute when Waqar Malik brought down Leon Augustine in the box after the latter had played a smart one-two with Lalrindika. Skipper Mendes, who is in charge of penalties, made no mistake from the spot to put Bengaluru in the driver’s seat.

The hosts managed to pull a goal back through Basit Bhat a little beyond the hour-mark, but Bengaluru were stubborn enough to avoid any further slip up as they sealed a first win in the campaign over LoneStar Kashmir FC.