Santosh Trophy: Kerala faces formidable Mizoram in semifinals

Five-time winner Kerala will take on formidable Mizoram, while defending champion Bengal will meet Karnataka in the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy football tournament here on Friday.

Kerala's Jithin Gopalan had a good outing in Santosh Trophy.   -  Debashish Bhaduri

Five-time winner Kerala will take on formidable Mizoram, while defending champion Bengal will meet Karnataka in the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy football tournament here on Friday.

The Kerala-Mizoram contest at the Mohun Bagan ground promises to be a keenly-fought affair.

Kerala benefitted its coach Satheevan Balan’s excellent tactics and superb display of its players, primarily drawn from the strong Calicut University side, to beat Manipur, Chandigarh, Maharashtra and Bengal to top Group A with an all-win record.

Mizoram, the champion side in 2013-14, had a fine start as it tamed Goa, Punjab and Odisha comfortably. It faltered in its last group match against Karnataka as coach Lalsangzuala Hmar rested majority of his main players.

Kerala had beaten Mizoram 4-1 last year, but the North East team has come a long way and will rely its talented young players, coming from the Mizoram Premier League, to pose a serious challenge to the southern outfit, which is considered the best side of the tournament.

Karnataka has the tough task of meeting title holder and host Bengal at the Sailen Manna Stadium in Howrah.

Karnataka, which won the title last in 1968-69 as Mysore, topped Group B after beating Goa, Odisha and Mizoram. Its only loss came against Punjab.

The team, which has some quality footballers from the second division I-League, needs to show some consistency in order to thwart Bengal.

The home side defeated Manipur, Maharashtra and Chandigarh, before losing its final group match against Kerala.

Bengal, a balanced team with players from smaller clubs, has the potential to check Karnataka and remain in title contention.

Semifinals fixture:

At Mohun Bagan ground: Kerala vs Mizoram (3 p.m.); At Sailen Manna Stadium, Howrah: Bengal vs Karnataka (3 p.m.).

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