IMPHAL, May 26: Manipur stormed into the final of the 65th national football championship for the Santosh Trophy for the second time in the history of the national football championship.
Manipur was eventual winner of the prestigious football trophy when it hosted the championship in 2002.
In the first semi final played this evening at JN stadium, Guwahati, Assam, Manipur defeated Services by a solitary goal scored via extra time as both the teams were locked scoreless till the end of normal time.
As score remain goalless till the end of normal time, the match was extended to 30 minutes of extra time and heading for an exciting finish.
Just before two minutes left for the match to be decided via tie-breaker, Manipur earned a throw-in near the Services goalmouth. Herojit made a powerful throw inside the Services goalmouth and later`™s custodian Ingobi who incidentally hails from Manipur failed to collect the ball properly and deflected towards the Services goalline which was handled by a Services player on the goalline.
Referee Minangshu Bhattacharya had no hesitation in awarding a spot kick in favour of Manipur but did not sent off or award any card to the Services player.
It may be mentioned here that during the FIFA World Cup – 2010 held in South Africa, a Chilian player namely Suarezh was immediately sent off with a direct Red Card for handling the ball heading to the goalline. The same was the case in today`™s semi final match, but the referee failed to take any action against the Services player.
The spot kick delivered by Thoiba in the 118th minute found the net and by virtue of the goal, Manipur is through to the final to be played on May 30 at Guwahati.
In the final, Manipur will meet winner of the second semi final to be played tomorrow between holder Bengal and Railways.
Speaking to reporters at AMFA office in Imphal immediately after witnessing live coverage of today`™s semi final match, AMFA secretary Ranjit Roy said Manipur`™s reaching of Santosh Trophy final after 2002 has ended criticism that Manipur forcibly lifted the Santosh trophy when it hosted the championship in 2002.
When Manipur lifted the trophy in 2002, semi finalist Goa and runner-up Kerala strongly charged that the host team forcibly lifted the trophy, Ranjit said adding today`™s match result ended such baseless criticism.
Manager of the Manipur team Dinamani told IFP over phone from Guwahati that Manipur could had scored early in the match had captain Nilakumar not injured during second half of the match.
Manipur Coach Ekendra Singh said Manipur missed two easy chances in the first half itself and had that chances been converted into goal the match could have been ended by normal time.