Santosh Trophy: Free-flowing Kerala awaits its final hurdle

The five-time champion plays Bengal in the final at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

Kerala's free-flowing attacking game backed by compact defence has been impressive. Photo: Sudhakara Jain

Five-time champion Kerala will rely on its talented bunch of players to overcome host Bengal when the two sides tussle in the Santosh Trophy title clash at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday.

Kerala impressed one and all with its free-flowing attacking game backed by compact defence as it recorded convincing wins in the group stage. The team showed its ability to adapt and play to a restrained game plan when the situation demanded so in the semifinal against Mizoram.

Kerala coach Satheevan Balan was delighted with the way his players rose to different occasions. “I am very happy with the progress of my team, which has shown great improvement match after match. We have a great deal of respect for Bengal but I know my players are capable of winning the title,” said Balan.

‘Not the favourites’

However, Balan did not want to take 32-time champion Bengal lightly. “We are not the favourites. Since we arrived here, we took every match as the final and against Bengal it will be the same. We will put in our best effort to make sure we win. Having played them earlier in the tournament, we have an idea of the Bengal team but we are talking of the final and surely it will be different," he added.

Even though Bengal did not have any extraordinary performer, it clicked as a team and gave some dominating performances except for the lone loss to Kerala in the group stage. Its solid defence, which saw the host concede only two goals so far, would hold Bengal in good stead against Kerala.

‘No pressure’

“There is absolutely no pressure. The team has confidence in its ability to win the final against Kerala,” said Ranjan Chowdhury.

“Kerala is a strong and organised team. They are very strong defensively and [have] got many talented players. The winning side has to earn the trophy tomorrow,” said Chowdhury.