MALAPPURAM, May 1 (PTI): Heavyweights West Bengal would look to annexe their 33rd title when they take on hosts Kerala in the final of the 75th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy here on Monday.
It will be the eastern State’s 46th final overall, and they will enter this contest as favourites, owing to their outstanding record in the tournament since its start in 1941.
However, Bengal are expected to face a tough test from an in-form Kerala outfit.
Kerala defeated West Bengal in the first round, and Bino George’s men will once again fancy their chances against the most successful team in the history of the tournament.
But West Bengal will look to settle the scores by winning this fixture. They will also be looking to avenge their 2018 Hero Santosh Trophy final defeat, which they lost in penalties after the game ended in a stalemate at the end of regulation time.
Last time the two teams played, the score was locked at 0-0 at the hour mark. Thereafter, Bengal goalie Priyant Singh faced a barrage of shots and was deceived in the 84th minute by Noufal while Jesin Thonikkara found the back of the net in the injury time.
However, Ranjan Bhattacharjee’s men bounced back from the said loss by winning the remainder of the group stage games.
They qualified for the all-important final by recording a massive 3-0 win over a lacklustre Manipur side in the semifinal on Friday. Sujit Singh, Mohammed Fardin Ali Molla and Dilip Orawn were on the target as they downed Manipur with utmost ease.
“The match between Kerala and West Bengal will be exciting, and I hope fans will tune in,” West Bengal coach Bhattacherjee said ahead of the game.
“Tomorrow’s game will be a competitive contest, and the team that can convert their opportunities more during the first and second halves will take the Hero Santosh Trophy home,” he added.
Asked about the injury concerns, Bhattacharjee stated, “The West Bengal team is absolutely fit and active.”
Kerala, on the other hand, thrashed Karnataka 7-3 in the semifinal to secure a spot in the title clash.
Jesin TK, scored an astounding five goals for the six-time champions, while Shighil and Arjun Jayaraj each scored one goal each.
Kerala won three games in the first round while played out a 2-2 draw with Meghalaya.
“We will play West Bengal in the final game of the 2021-22 Hero Santosh Trophy tomorrow. So, the aforementioned game is crucial for us, and we will consider it as a do-or-die match,” Padinjarathala remarked.
“I want to beat Bengal tomorrow and bring the trophy home for our fans, who have been supportive throughout the tournament,” he concluded.