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Meghalaya will play Karnataka in the final Sport-rated




Meghalaya and Karnataka stunned former champions Punjab and Services respectively on Wednesday to set up a crowning clash between them in the Santosh Trophy national football championships here.

Meghalaya bounced back strongly as they rallied from a goal deficit to beat eight-time champions Punjab 2-1 in the first semi-finals to enter their first final. Karnataka then beat Services, who have won five titles in the past 10 years, 3-1 in the second semi-finals to enter their first final in 37 years.

The last time Karnataka was in the final was in 1975-76 when they lost to Bengal. The final between Meghalaya and Karnataka will be played on Saturday, while the third-place match between Punjab and Services will also take place on the same day.

Punjab has reached the semi-finals without losing a match. They had topped their group in both the first and second rounds. The semi-finals, third-place play-off, and final are played here, as the Santosh Trophy takes place on foreign shores for the first time in its history.

Paramjit Singh had given Punjab the lead on 16 minutes, but Megahlaya restored parity on 37 minutes through Figo Syndai when he scored coolly after Nikelson Bina’s header on target.

Meghalaya, playing in their first semi-finals, controlled much of the match after the draw, but could not find a goal until late in the match. Sheen Stevenson Sohktung found the goal in added time due to injury (90+1) in the game played at the almost empty King Fahd International Stadium.

Punjab, who have left out some players who had played in the second round in Bhubaneswar, will have to wait for the title they last won in 2007-08. In the second semi-final both Services and Karnatka were evenly matched going on a run of three goals in the last five minutes of the first half.

Services’ Bikash Thapa and Karnataka’s Abhishek Powar missed a goal each in the 33rd and 38th minutes respectively. Thapa then put Services in the lead on 40 minutes. But two minutes later, Robin Yadav restored equality with a free-kick before P Ankith gave Karnataka the lead in the first minute of stoppage time in the first half. half (45+1) as Karnataka caught the breather with a 2-1 lead.

Karnatka pushed the match beyond the reach of Services when M Sunil Kumar scored in the 77th minute to make it 3-1.