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Posted at: Apr 21, 2019, 8:01 AM; last updated: Apr 21, 2019, 8:01 AM (IST)SANTOSH TROPHY

Gritty Punjab eye glory at home

Bank on home support to trump Services in the final
Gritty Punjab eye glory at home
Punjab and Services captains and coaches greet each other on the eve of the Santosh Trophy final in Ludhiana on Saturday. Ashwani Dhiman

Anil Datt

Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 20

A keen tussle is on cards as hosts Punjab take on Services in the final of the 73rd edition of the National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy at Guru Nanak Stadium here on Sunday.

Punjab scored a last-gasp win against Goa to make it to the final and will bank on the home support to come trumps against a consistent Services side.   

“Of course, playing at 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,” Punjab assistant coach Bikramjit Singh said on the eve of the match.

Services coach Parshuram Salwadi admitted that it won’t be easy to beat Punjab at their home, but emphasised his boys were ready for the challenge.     

“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 ago in 2014-15, a match that incidentally took place at the same venue. While the match remained goalless, Services triumphed 5-4 on penalties.

“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 added.

Services have been one of the most consistent sides in the tournament so far. They have been unbeaten in their five matches thus far, netting 11 while conceding just three goals.

“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,” said 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,” the Services coach added.   

Punjab will be at a slight disadvantage as their young right-back Chetan Kumar has been ruled out of final with a knee injury, which he suffered while going for a tackle in their semifinal against Goa.

However, with the home advantage on their side anything could be possible in the high-intensity final. The kick-off is at 3. 30 pm.

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