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Karnataka entered Santosh Trophy final after 47 years

The last time they reached the final was in the 1975-76 season and since then, they could never reach the title round.

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Riyadh: Nearly five decades wait for Karnataka ended at the King Fahd International Stadium on Wednesday night when they outclassed former Santosh Trophy champion Services 3-1 in the second semi final play and would face another finalist Meghalaya, which defeated Punjab in the first semifinal play at the same ground.

Karnataka played forthright football against strong contenders Services and emerged 3-1 winners with goals from Robin Yadav, Ankith P and M Sunil Kumar. Yet, the Santosh Trophy, the symbol of supremacy in India’s domestic competitions, has somehow remained elusive to Karnataka for more than five decades now.

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The last time they reached the final was in the 1975-76 season and since then, they could never reach the title round.

Things, however, changed at the King Fahd International Stadium after Meghalaya made the final

for the first time in history at the expense of eight-time champions Punjab, it was Karnataka’s turn to emerge as the worthy challengers in the final.

It was an eventful match that was stretched over 100 minutes because of injuries and too many stoppages right from the start. But then, the match was virtually won and lost in the first session,

or in its closing minutes, to be precise.

The last six minutes of the first half remained highly eventful – it fetched three goals and a near miss that could have put Karnataka further ahead. It began with Services winger Bikash Thapa missing an easy chance in the 39th minute; he had all the time in the world to cut past the goalkeeper, which he duly did, only to be foiled by an onrushing defender Nikhil.

Just when everyone was wondering whether Thapa was actually the right man to avail himself of the opportunity, he produced a goal that was worthy of being scored at the great stadium. Off a corner kick, there was the usual melee inside the box and Thapa scored with a quick back-heal that caught the Karnataka defence completely off-guard. Probably to make his goal at the famous venue a memorable one, Thapa ran towards the bench and then broke into a Cristiano Ronaldo-like celebration, much to the delight of the photographers around.

Services will now face Punjab in the 3rd Place Match in Riyadh at 5.30 pm IST on Saturday, March 4, while the summit clash of the 76th National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy will be played between Meghalaya and Karnataka at 9 pm IST, at the same venue, on the same day.

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