Riyadh: Karnataka made their maiden entry into the Santosh Trophy final in five decades with a brilliant 3-1 win against strong contenders Services in the 76th National Football Championships at the King Fahd International Stadium, here Wednesday.
Services, who last won the title in 2018-19 and have won the title four times since 2010, were the favourites to win the match as Karnataka has not crossed the semifinals stage in four attempts recently.
However, the team from South, which had won their last title in 1968-69 as Mysore State, fought back brilliantly after going a goal down and registered a memorable come-from-behind win that sealed them a summit clash with first-timers Meghalaya.
Services went ahead in the 40th minute but Karnataka scored twice within four minutes and took a 2-1 lead at half-time. With Services losing steam in the second half, Karnataka scored one more goal late in the match to set themselves up for a historic title.
Services held the upper hand in the first quarter of the match as they used their superior fitness and good coordination to make a good start. They created several good chances but were thwarted by the Karnataka defence before Bikash Thapa put them ahead with a superb goal. Off a corner kick, the ball fell fortuitously for him and the forward did not make any mistake and slotted it home in the 40th minute.
But Karnataka responded with a fine attack of their own and equalised the score when defender Robin Yadav scored in the 42nd minute off a brilliant free-kick, blasting the ball over the wall as the goalkeeper went the other way.
Karnataka made it 2-1 within a few minutes when P Ankith scored when he got a loose ball off a superb attack to make it 2-1 in added time (45+1).
Services could have levelled the scores soon following the restart after half-time as Bikash Thapa made a strong run at the goal off a superb attack but Services goalkeeper Satyajit Bordoloi rushed out and blocked his attempt.
Karnataka virtually assured themselves victory when substitute Sunil Kumar scored off a corner when he rushed into the box and shot home the ball that had glanced off the defender’s head.
Karnataka thus made history as they made it to the final after a big gap to set up a summit clash with Meghalaya.