Kolkata, Mar 30:
Defending champions Bengal will vie for a record 33rd title after setting up a summit clash with Kerala, following their 2-0 win over Karnataka in the semifinals of the 72nd Santosh Trophy, here today.
Captain Jiten Murmu and Tirthankar Sarakar’s second-half goals helped Bengal beat Karnataka at the Howrah Maidan Stadium here.
Murmu broke the deadlock on the 57th minute while Sarakar made sure of a Bengal win in the second minute (90+2′) of stoppage time, converting a free-kick that was won by the captain.
In the second semifinal at Mohun Bagan ground, five-time champions Kerala rode on a 54th minute strike by Addams VK to oust Mizoram 1-0.
The last time Bengal and Kerala faced off in the final was in 1993-94, with the former winning 5-3 on penalties in Cuttack, after the score was tied 2-2 at regulation time.
Kerala last won the title in 2004-05 when they defeated Punjab 3-2 in New Delhi while this is their first final appearance since 2012-13 when they lost to Services on penalties at home.
The final is slated at the Saltlake Stadium at 2.30pm on April 1.
Kerala’s only bright chance in the first half was Rahul KP’s miss from the edge of the box on the volley.
Such incompetence in the first half prompted Balan to usher in striker Afdal VK for an ineffective Sajith Poulose just before the whistle.
That substitution paid immense dividends nine minutes after the change of ends. Collecting the ball from a diagonal pass, Jithin MS made a darting run from the right and cut in to dodge past two men.
Rahul KP shot from his square pass but ‘keeper Laltanpuia Ralte parried it off. Afdal VK, unmarked took his chance and slotted the ball home to give Kerala the lead against the run of play.
Even though Mizoram dominated in all departments of the game, lack of poor finishing kept them at bay.
Mizoram were without coach Lalsangzuala Hmar, who was serving a one-game suspension.
Given the nature of the tie, both sides started off cautiously. However, Mizoram showed much more promise especially Lalbiakhlua who managed to get the game going from the right flank.
Within ten minutes, Mizoram were winning all sorts of set-pieces but Lalnuntluanga’s free-kick ricocheted off the wall and even Hming Thanmawia hit the ball over the bar in the ninth minute.
Lal Romawia could not add to his four goals in the tournament when he swivelled from around 17 yards as Midhun V made an outstretched save, diving to his right after the quarter hour mark.
Mizoram had a golden opportunity in the 33rd minute to get the lead but Romawia missed from closed range.
Lalrinpuia’s shot forced Midhun to fist the ball out but the north-eastern side could not take advantage from the goalmouth melee. PTI