Shillong, Mar 4: After giving it their all in a sensational campaign that took them to new heights, Meghalaya’s run in the Santosh Trophy was ended by Karnataka in the final tonight in a 3-2 defeat.
It was a huge moment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the Meghalaya team, which had never before reached so far into the Men’s National Football Championship, but their spirited efforts were not enough to stop Karnataka from winning a fifth title.
It was a disastrous start with Karnataka taking the lead in the second minute but Brolington Warlarpih (9′) equalised with a penalty soon after. Parity didn’t last long, however, with Bekey Oram (19′) tapping Karnataka ahead and this time his team were able to extend their lead in the 44th minute via Robin Yadav. Sheen Sohktung (60′) then pulled a goal back in the second half but Karnataka held on for the win.
Only change to the starting XI by coach Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh was to bring back captain Fullmoon Mukhim in place of Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait. Mukhim had been injured and thus missed the semifinal against Punjab.
Karnataka bagged the opener after a long throw-in couldn’t be cleared by Meghalaya. Sunil Kumar then pulled the trigger but his shot took a big deflection off the left leg of Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri and there was nothing goalkeeper Rajat Paul Lyngdoh could do to keep it out.
Karnataka’s defence then blundered by fouling Sohktung in the box, leading to an easy decision for the referee to signal a spot kick. Warlarpih stepped up and delivered a perfect penalty high into the net to equalise proceedings.
Meghalaya were on the up after that and had their chances to take the lead. Figo Syndai was a little wayward in the 11th minute after a Sohktung cut-back and two minutes later Dawanchwa Challam saw his attempt deflected out for a corner.
Meghalaya had a clear disadvantage in height over their opponents, so they rarely threatened with the various corners they won.
As had been the case in the semifinal, the Meghalaya defence was a little too open at times and this cost them in the 19th minute when a deep cross saw Karnataka with two players in the open. One tapped the ball forwards past the legs of three defenders and Oram tapped the ball onto the crossbar and it came back down over the line.
Towards the end of the first half Meghalaya were perhaps a little frustrated and conceded far too many free-kicks. A dangerous one saw Yadav convert with a sensational strike well beyond Rajat’s reach.
Syiemlieh made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait and Manbhakupar Iawphniaw in place of Nikelson Bina and Figo Syndai.
The defence was also pushed up and that left Meghalaya a little vulnerable at the back but they had to prioritise scoring by this point.
Ten minutes in, Karnataka had an excellent chance to score a fourth goal but Jacob John messed up at the end. It was on the hour mark that the final goal of the game was scored, with Iawphniaw, benefitting from fresh legs, getting past a marker on the right. He sent the ball in to the far side where Sohktung was unmarked and he placed the ball neatly into the net.
Following this, Karnataka were more content with sitting back and defending their reduced lead, though they still had a few attempts on the break but none of these were successful.
Right at the end of the game, a Ronaldkydon attempt brushed a defender and looped up but hit the woodwork and stayed out.
The final whistle blew soon after and the Meghalaya players sank to the ground exhausted and understandably disappointed after a wonderful effort. Karnataka rightly celebrated winning a Santosh Trophy for the first time in over half a century.
Meghalaya thus had to accept being runners-up, while Services, who defeated Punjab 2-0 earlier in the day, took home third place.
Rajat kept six clean sheets in the tournament and was named Best Goalkeeper. Yadav was named Player of the Tournament.
Today’s Meghalaya squad: Rajat Paul Lyngdoh (GK), Brolington Warlarpih, Wanboklang Lyngkhoi, Banskhemlang Mawlong, Fullmoon Mukhim (C) (sub Everbrightson Mylliempdah 80′), Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri, Dawanchwa Carlos Challam, Nikelson Bina (sub Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait 46′), Figo Syndai (sub Manbhakupar Iawphniaw 46′), Donlad Diengdoh, Sheen Stevenson Sohktung