Services is the defending champion and it played like one on Wednesday. Result? Puducherry was gutted 12-0 in the Group B match of the South Zone Santosh Trophy football qualifiers at the Nehru stadium.
Five goals were scored in the first half; Puducherry spending most of those 45 minutes chasing the ball — it didn’t come down hard enough on tackles. Vivek Kumar and Arjun Tudu scored twice each, assisting each other once.
Vivek was the first to score — the ball, set up by Arjun, was flown in from the edge of the box. The second came to be in much the same way; except for the role reversal and from just inside the box. Three more followed, one of them headed in by Rojen Meitei off P. Jain’s floater, before a brief respite for Puducherry.
Not that the second half was any better for it. It was worse. Services completed the humiliation with seven goals more, Arjun accounting for three.
The only blot was Vivek’s missed penalty in the 75th minute that didn’t cost much but for his hat-trick. G. Praveen, who was shown a yellow card, was on the wrong side.
Francis was impressive among the non-scorers. Operating from half-back, he feinted and seeped in with ease, once notably rolling off and looking to score, all on his own, before he was felled on half-trigger in front of the box.
On the whole, Services clearly looked the team with a goal; more than a goal, if you may. It helped that its opposition was insipid.
The result: Services 12 (Vivek Kumar 13, 45, Arjun Tudu 15, 41, 49, 77, 80, Rojen Meitei 27, P. Jain 72, 90+2, P.M. Brito 83, Antony Chetri 85) bt Puducherry 0.
Karnataka 1 (S. Karthik 98) bt Andhra Pradesh 0.
Thursday’s match: Telangana vs. Kerala.