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Test of nerves for Goa vs Services

Costa’s men need a draw to progress to semis as desperate holders look to cling on

Story: BAS | L SYLVESTER P | 20th March 2017, 05:02 Hrs

PANAJI   
Matches in the ongoing Final Round of the Santosh Trophy have been shorn of quality and class but not on potential and promise.  
The lustre of the inter-State Championship is considerably lost with the top players plying their trade in the ongoing I-League, a club competition which is given precedence than representation for one’s State. Goa too had to play a waiting game to build up a formidable side with the unavailability of a few of their key players prioritising their club over State.   
Goa could have well sealed the second semi-final berth from Group A on Saturday if not for frittering opportunities that came their way by the plentiful. In successive games against West Bengal (0-0) and Chandigarh (1-1), they have escaped with fortuitous draws. All they need in their last group engagement against Services on Monday is another draw, and with their wretched vein of performances showing no signs of improving hopes are precipitous and edgy that they will sneak into the last four stage.   
Standing in their way are defending champions Services, who look anything than the part of a whole which made them a strong team to win the championship in the last edition. On Saturday at Tilak Maidan, they put up a rather insipid performance against Meghalaya to lose 0-2 and now have all to play for in their last group engagement against the hosts on Monday in Bambolim. The defending champions not only need a win but also a favourable result, a stalemate in the coinciding Group A game between West Bengal and Meghalaya. On the other hand, Goa would look to avenge their last edition’s semi-finals defeat against 
Services. 
With Meghalaya high on confidence after upsetting Services on Saturday, the northeastern side will look to take their level of performance a notch better to put it across Bengal on Monday to keep their hopes alive for a semis berth. With only Bengal assured of a semis spot with a game to spare, the other spot in Group A is a three-way race between hosts Goa, Meghalaya and title-holders 
Services.   
Goa have stuttered and sputtered when it has mattered most. The inability of their forwards in the final third has time and again let them down. Seen as Goa’s next big hope, U-21 striker Liston Colaco continues to promise much but has failed to deliver with alarming apathy. Handed starts in each of the three games, he was paired upfront with another U-21 year old player, Aaren D’Silva who save for his important goal against Chandigarh did nothing more to bring a change in the altered team formation. 
Experienced forward Marcus Mascarenhas has been coming off the substitute bench and it would be interesting to see if he gets a start in the decisive clash against Services. Or would another U-21 forward, Akeraj Martins, come into play for the first time in the competition to bring the cutting edge in the final third. 
If there was good news to the side from the last game it was the return of a fit-again Leny Pereira who brings more solidity in defence, with the seasoned Peter Carvalho exemplifying adeptness in his customary midfield role. Senior pros like Nicolau Colaco in defence and Cajetan Fernandes manning midfield have to shoulder more responsibility to influence the side for an improved showing in the all-important game against Services.   
Speaking to The Goan Everyday on the eve of the match, Goa gaffer Mateus Costa sounded positive on his side’s chances in making it to the knock-out stage. “In our last game we completely dominated the game. We created many chances but failed to convert,” Costa said. “I agree that scoring is a concern because at this level we cannot miss so many chances. But, I am still happy that we are creating this many chances,” 
he said.

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