Defending champions Punjab took a sweet revenge and stunned favourites Services by a solitary goal to lift the 62nd Santosh Trophy national football championship title at the Bakshi stadium here today.
Punjab, who lost to Services in the quarterfinal league stages of the tournament, displayed an all-round performance and broke Services' heart in the 54th minute of the match when substitute Balraj Singh converted a spot kick after a Services defender handled the ball inside the box.
Down by a goal, Services, who qualified for the Santosh Trophy final after a hiatus of 39 years, went all out in search of the elusive equaliser but a determined Punjab defence came in their way on all occasions.
Punjab was undoubtedly the better side on display and their striking trio of Amandeep Singh, Balraj and Balwant Singh, now and then posed serious threats to Services goal.
The title holders could have won the encounter by a bigger margin but Services skipper and custodian Robikanta Singh ensured that his team remains in the hunt till the end.
Services too had several chances to level the scores but Punjab goalkeeper Karanjit Singh came in their way on every occasion.
Services paid the price for relying heavily on their star striker Sochungmi Raleng who was no where near to his lethal best today as Punjab defenders gave him little opportunity to break free.
Raleng, who emerged as the most promising player of the tournament, top scoring with 13 goals from eight games, had little to offer and was later substituted in the 70th minute.
Earlier, the opening half was full of action as both the teams started the game at a brisk pace in search of the lead. However, it was not to be as the first 45 minutes ended goalless.
Although both sides enjoyed equal ball possession in the first half, it was the eventual winners which played more attacking football while Services preferred their traditional style of controlling the pace of the game.
Services first chance came early in the fifth minute when a Shaji D'Silva header went inches wide of the bar.
Punjab responded back in the following minute and launched a counter attack but Sukhwinder Singh's rightfooter sailed way over the cross bar.
The title defenders had the best chance of breaking the deadlock in the opening half but an unmarked Harvinder Singh's shot from the top of the box went wide.
The closest Services came to scoring a goal in the first half was in the 36th minute but K P Kaboi's scorching leftfooter went straight to Karanjit
Jammu and Kashmir striker Ishwaq Ahmed, who plays for Mohun Bagan, was rewarded with Rs 50,000 for fair-play while Relang was adjudged the player of the tournament for his 13 goals which included two hat-tricks.