Bambolim (Goa), March 20 (IANS) Goa came from one goal down to edge past defending champions the Services 2-1 and make it to the semi-finals in a Group A national championship for the Santosh Trophy football tie here on Monday.
The Services took the lead through All India Football Federation (AIFF) youth academy product Arjun Tudu in the seventh minute but goals from teenage footballer Akeraj Martins and Cajetan Fernandes helped the hosts reach the last four stage in thrilling fashion.
Martins made a dazzling run on the left, beating the onrushing keeper and lobbing the ball over him to find the back of the net leaving the huge crowd in raptures. Cajetan then put the result beyond doubt with another clinical finish in the dying minutes of the rip-roaring game.
Goa started the match needing a point at the minimum to ensure a last-four berth.
The hosts got off to the worst possible start when they found themselves a goal down, with Tudu beating Bruno Colaco from the narrowest of angles to score.
Goa then suffered another blow when central defender Leny Pereira had to be replaced by Cajetan due to a tight hamstring.
Then began Goa's profligacy in front of the goal. It started with a Brian Mascarenhas free kick going just over the bar, a Liston Fernandes cross eluding both Aaren D'Silva and Brian Mascarenhas by inches and Latesh Mandrekar blazing his shot wide off the keeper after Fernandes had played in a brilliant through ball.
In the 38th minute, Aaren D'Silva missed a sitter after Fernandes did all the hard work and fed the ball to him on a platter, and then a minute before half time when a Peter Carvalho header was cleared off the line by Services skipper Rary Raj.
In the second half, the Services, with a goal up, preferred to defend and beat Goa on the counter.
And they nearly went 2-0 up when Tudu beat the offside trap but Bruno Colaco made a brilliant save to keep Goa in the game.
Goa were then thrown a lifeline and given a numerical advantage with 22 minutes left on the clock when the Services skipper was given the marching orders for a second yellow, however chances continued to go begging.
The home side finally restored parity when Martins received a high ball from Carvalho which eluded the Services defenders. Martins controlled the ball to go past the onrushing keeper and lobbed the ball over him into the side netting.
Two minutes before the final whistle, Cajetan calmed Goa's nerves scoring the second goal after some brilliant combination play from Glan Martins and Martins.
Meanwhile at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Bengal confirmed their top spot in the group scoring a 2-0 win over Meghalaya.
Shaikhom Singh put Bengal ahead in the 8th minute when Manvir Singh laid it on a platter for him to tap in past the goalkeeper.
Late into the match with six minutes left on the clock, Manvir Singh put the result beyond doubt after dribbling past two defenders and completing the finish.