Services won their sixth Santosh Trophy title with a 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.
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 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 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.
With this victory, Services has ended the campaign without losing a single match.