Lost the battle of penalties before it began: Bengal coach

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Kolkata, April 1 (IANS) Ruing the unavailability of three players who could have changed the fate in tie-breakers for holders Bengal, their coach Ranjan Chowdhury on Sunday said the “battle was lost before it began” in the Santosh Trophy final penalty shootout against Kerala on Sunday.

Kerala beat defending champions Bengal 4-2 in the tie-breaker to lift the 72nd edition of the Santosh Trophy football tournament title.

Both teams were locked 2-2 after extra time at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan leading to a tie-breaker to decide the champion.

Ankit and Nabi Hussain Khan missed the first two attempts for Bengal as Kerala goalie Midhun pulled off saves on both occasions.

Tirthankar Sarkar and Sanchayan Samadder’s conversion did not help as Kerala had a 100 percent record with Rahul V Raj, Jithin Gopalan and Jestin George all scoring.

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For the final kick, Jiten Murmu took on the gloves but Seesan S shot past the striker to deliver Kerala their first Santosh Trophy after a thirteen-season gap.

“I had to make three substitutions all because of injury. And all three of them were supposed to take penalties so we lost the battle of penalties before it began,” Chowdhury told reporters after the match.

Bidyashagar Singh (90+2), Sourav Dasgupta (start of extra time) and Sumit Das (halftime) were all taken off before the tie-breakers with the former two being injured and Das brought off due to poor showing.

During the match, M.S. Jithin scored in the 19th minute for Kerala while Jiten Murmu drew level for Bengal in the 68th minute.

In extra time, Vibin Thomas found the net in the 117th minute for Kerala after Bengal’s Rajon Burman was given his marching orders.

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Bengal’s Tirthankar Sarkar scored late into injury time to take the game to penalties.

For the record, Bengal and Kerala have met twice before in the summit clash with the former winning on both occasions on penalties.

Coming to the winning team, Kerala coach Satheevan Balan credited his youngsters in the team for the success, saying it is the freshness in their ranks that helped him plan in his way and mastermind the triumph.

This is the youngest-ever Kerala team to take part in the nationals.

“It’s a fresh team and my technical staff also is new so I could work freely,” coach Balan told reporters.

“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,” the former India U-19 coach added.

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Kerala won all their matches leading up to the final. They finished top of Group A and also got the better of Bengal in the group stages.

“Recently, there are many youth leagues (in Kerala) which is encouraging for upcoming boys,” the national team scout said.

Balan had previously been vocal about the lack of promoters and exposure hurting the growth of Kerala football.

Kerala last won the Santosh Trophy in 2004-05.

–IANS

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