Bengal blame it on injury; Kerala heap praise on youngsters

Bengal coach Ranjan Chowdhury today blamed their heartbreaking loss to Kerala in the Santosh Trophy final on injuries to key players.

Trailing 1-2, Bengal were reduced to 10 players with eight minutes left in the extra time, but they managed to level through Tirthankar Sarkar's curling freekick in the 120+6th minute and take the match into penalty shootout.

Kerala sealed the issue 4-2 in the penalty shootout as Bengal missed the duo of Bidyashagar Singh and Sourav Dasgupta sorely, Chowdhury said.

"We had to make the substitutes all because of injuries... The duo was supposed to take penalties. It was a lost battle in the penalty shootout, much before it began," Chowdhury rued at the post-match news conference.

Bidyasagar, who had scored the solitary goal in their win over Chandigarh, sustained an injury and was replaced by Sandip Bhattacharjee in the 90+2nd minute.

At the start of extra time, Sourav Dasgupta also picked an injury to be replaced by Krishna Biswas.

Back in 1988-89, Bengal downed Kerala 4-3 on penalties after they were one-all. In 1993-94, Cuttack, the match too was decided in the penalty shootout when Bengal beat Kerala 5-3 after they were locked 2-2.

This was Kerala's sixth Santosh Trophy title and first since 2004-05.

Kerala had downed Punjab 3-2 with an extra time goal to win their last Santosh Trophy in New Delhi in October 2004.

For this edition, Kerala trusted former Calicut University coach and national team scout Satheevan Balan who opted for their youngest-ever team.

Kerala defeated Chandigarh 5-1 in their tournament opener before handing out 6-0 and 3-0 thrashings to Manipur and Maharashtra to reach the semi-final.

In their final group league, Kerala defeated Bengal 1-0 as they finished the tournament winning all their matches, and doing a double on the record 32 times champions.

"It's a fresh team and my technical staff also new so I could work freely. I could choose the players I like and they have done an excellent job. We have thirteen players without job and they are young players," he hailed, giving credit to the boys.

"We selected a very young team that we believed can compete. They proved during the South Zone matches and we qualified. We understood this team was capable to put up a fight against any other team at an all-India level and they have showed this in the final."

Satheevan was appointed national team scout under Stephen Constantine in 2015 and the current crop of players playing for him will be hopeful of a national call-up.


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