Kerala coach: ‘I told the keeper to look to right’

Kerala coach Satheevan Nil Balan said he advised Midhun V. to look for shots on the right and the goalkeeper followed his advice to make two crucial saves in the tie-breaker and help his team beat Bengal in the Santosh Trophy final on Sunday.

Kerala footballers celebrate after winning Santosh Trophy by beating Bengal at Salt Lake in Kolkata on Sunday.   -  PTI

Kerala coach Satheevan Nil Balan said he advised Midhun V. to look for shots on the right and the goalkeeper followed his advice to make two crucial saves in the tie-breaker and help his team beat Bengal in the Santosh Trophy final on Sunday.

As the title clash at the Salt Lake Stadium here went into the penalty shoot-out, as the two sides were locked 2-2 after the extra-time, Balan provided the vital input to the Kerala custodian. “I told him, ‘Look for shots coming from your right. Out of five, any two players will shoot at your right side,’” said an elated Balan after guiding Kerala to the title win.

Midhun dived to his right to block the first two Bengal shots from Ankit Mukherjee and Nabi Hussain Khan and give his team a huge advantage.

READ: Kerala secures Santosh Trophy with penalty-shootout victory

Kerala players converted all four chances to establish an unassailable lead and lay their hands on the coveted trophy after 14 years.

Balan said the match got extended due to Kerala's missed opportunities. “We did not have extraordinary players who could last up to 120 minutes. We wanted to finish the game in 90 minutes. Bengal scored because of a little lack of concentration. We have the potential, but not the kind to attack and defend immediately. Our boys were challenged from the very first, so they were tired.”

Balan said this was his biggest achievement as a coach. “In the last 14 years I did not get the opportunity to coach Kerala. When I got the chance, I did some things differently. It is a fresh team, my technical staff is new. I chose the players who can do what I tell them to do.

“For last three-four years I have been working with the (Calicut) university team. So I know who are the players who can work hard not just to get into the team, but those who know my philosophy and can work as a team.

“I have won many championships, but Santosh Trophy is a prestigious title for Kerala. For the last 14 years they were waiting for this. So this is the best win in my coaching career,” he said.