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Kerala beat Bengal to bag sixth title

Santosh Trophy

Kolkata, April 1: Kerala beat defending champions Bengal 4-2 in the tie-breaker after the fil ended 2-2 in extra time to win the 72nd edition of the Santosh Trophy football tourment at the Vivekanda Yuvabharati Krirangan here on Sunday.
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.
Bengal’s Tirthankar Sarkar scored late into injury time to take the game to pelties. Kerala kept a spotless record in the pelty shoot-out to win their sixth title.
Both sides made the solitary change from their semi-fil victories. Kerala got in Afdal VK, the hero that got them to the fil for Sajith Poulose to lead the line. Krish Biswas made way for Sanchayan Samadder in midfield for Bengal.
It was Kerala who broke the deadlock against the run of play. Jithin Gopalan intercepted a ball in the centre of the park and found S. Seesan close by.
The first bit of real action after the change of ends came a minute past the hour mark. Afdal turned the other way and played a backheel for Jithin MS, whose low cross was squandered by Anurag inside the pelty box.
Bengal woke up from their slumber after that. Ankit Mukherjee floated a long ball in the 66th minute and Murmu’s header went wide.
A couple of minutes later, the home side drew level courtesy their captain Murmu.
Monotosh Chakladar headed down a long ball and substitute Rajon Barman broke through to feed the striker who found the back of the net with a delectable left-footer, to level matters with 22 minutes to go.
Tirthankar Sarkar, Bengal’s best player by a margin tried hard to ruffle Kerala feathers but his shot from the pelty arc was parried off by Midhun.
Afdal missed another chance with two minutes to go with Rajit off his line and both Bengal defenders combining to clear the ball with the goalkeeper absent. The scoreline was tied 1-1 as the game entered extra time. Sandip Bhattacharjee sprinted down to the end to play a through ball to Rajon. The striker’s second touch was poor and the ball went too ahead of him. Midhun came out to collect the ball only to have Rajon’s boot hit his face, for which referee Crystal John did not hesitate to produce the red card.
The winner came in the 117th minute as Kerala took advantage of the extra man and Jestin George’s cross from the left was headed home by Vibin Thomas.
However, Tirthankar had other plans when he converted from a free kick from 25 yards in the sixth minute of injury time, taking the game to a shootout.
Ankit and bi Hussain Khan missed the first two attempts for Bengal as Midhun pulled off a save on both occasions.
Tirthankar 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. For the fil kick, Jiten Murmu took on the gloves but Seesan S shot past the striker to deliver Kerala their first Hero Santosh Trophy after a thirteen-season gap. IANS

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Ankur Kalita