Category: Santosh Trophy

Bikash Thapa scores the winner as Services clinch sixth Santosh Trophy title

LUDHIANA: Services won their sixth Hero Santosh Trophy title with a slender 1-0 victory over home side Punjab, thanks to a second-half strike by Bikash Thapa at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, on Sunday (April 21, 2019). With this victory, the side has now gone the stretch of the final rounds without losing a single match.

Incidentally, the last time Services played in the Santosh Trophy Final was in 2015, at the same venue and against the same opposition, a match that they won 5-4 on penalties after it ended 0-0 post extra time.

It was a somewhat slow start to the game as both the sides looked to measure each other up before committing themselves. Home side Punjab had more initiative during the opening exchanges, managing to get a few shots on goal.

However, as the match wore on, Services started to gain more composure and built their own articulate attacks down the flanks. This wing-play almost resulted in a goal right at the end of the first half.

Bikash Thapa was played through on the right as he entered the box, sold a dummy to a Punjab defender and crossed to Harikrishna AU who scuffed his shot.

After the changeover, Services came out with a clear intent to go ahead in the game. Again, it was their wing-play that helped them in their endeavours. Lallawmkima found himself on the edge of the Punjab area with the ball. He squared it to Thapa, who slotted it into the bottom corner. A shirtless celebration meant that Thapa had to go into the referee’s books.

That goal gave Punjab the initiative to go looking for the equaliser, and striker Vikrant Singh came oh-so-close with around 15 minutes of regulation time to go. Turning in the centre-circle, he spotted that the Services keeper Vishnu VK was off his line, and chipped the ball towards goal. The ball eventually plonked on the cross-bar and went out of play.

Punjab looking to carry on Santosh Trophy legacy through coach Harjinder Singh

LUDHIANA: Apart from the Goa, West Bengal, Kerala and the North East, the state of Punjab has always been a hotbed for talented footballers. The likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet Singh, and Balwant Singh are some of the players that are lighting up Indian football at the international level.

The Hero Santosh Trophy, that has acted as the National Championship played between different states has also seen a number of great performances by Punjab over the years. While Bengal have won the trophy an overwhelming number of times (32), Punjab are second on that list with eight titles.

Under the coaching of Harjinder Singh, Punjab have made it to the Final of the Santosh Trophy for the second time in five years and face Services in the championship game at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Sunday, April 21.

Incidentally, the same two opponents squared off against each other in 2015 at the same venue, an occasion when Services came out champions, winning 5-4 on penalties. Harjinder Singh, who was the Punjab Head Coach in 2015 as well, however, does not believe in going for revenge in this crunch match.

“It’s not about avenging a defeat. Both our teams were on equal terms that day, and they kept their nerves during the penalties,” he said. “We have to make sure that we play better in the match and win the trophy. I believe the side that makes fewer mistakes will win. My lads are all ready to fight and give their 100 per cent in the final.”

FROM A FOOTBALLING DYNASTY

Harjinder Singh, who is also the Honorary Secretary of the Punjab Football Association, along with being the Head Coach, hails from a family that is all to well known to Indian football fans, being the son of the great Inder Singh. The former India striker had etched his name in history books when he became the joint-top scorer of the 1964 AFC Asian Cup, along with Mordechai Spiegler of Israel. Later, Inder Singh also went on to win the Santosh Trophy with Punjab, the most famous of his exploits coming in 1974, when the North Indian state beat the then mighty Bengal team by a whopping 6-0 margin.

Inder Singh himself had netted 23 goals in the tournament, a feat that has never been matched in 45 years.

“We have always had great players coming through from Punjab,” said Harjinder. “It was not just my father. You look at the JCT Academy; it has given us so many top-flight footballers over the decades.”

A RESURGENCE OF SORTS

While Punjab has won the Hero Santosh Trophy eight times, the state is currently going through an 11-year drought; their last victory came in 2008, when they beat Services 1-0 in Srinagar. Since then they have made it to the final only on one other occasion, making a victory against Services on Sunday imperative.

“The result of the final will purely depend on what strategy the two coaches apply, and how the players respond to the instructions that are given to them,” said Harjinder. “At the end of the day, I, as a coach, can only get satisfaction if my players grow and enjoy the game themselves.

“I would like to urge all the fans, especially the youngsters in Ludhiana and Punjab to come and support the team. But most of all, I would urge them to appreciate good football, even if it comes from the opponents,” Harjinder signed off.

Punjab bank on home support in Santosh Trophy final against Services

LUDHIANA: After 12 rigorous days of the final phase, Ludhiana is all set to witness the Hero Santosh Trophy 2018-19 final at the Guru Nanak Stadium where home side Punjab face off against Services at 3.30pm on Sunday (April 21, 2019).

Being the home side, Punjab have enjoyed the rapturous support of the local fans, something that propelled them to gain the last-gasp win in their last two games – against Karnataka in Group B and against Goa in the semi-final.

“Of course, playing in our home ground brings its own advantages. We will have the support of the local people behind us which gives a lot of motivation to the players”, said Punjab assistant coach Bikramjit Singh on the eve of the match.

Services Head Coach Parshuram Salwadi echoed Bikramjit’s feelings, saying that having a packed stadium behind them would be a key advantage for Punjab.

“Playing a team like Punjab will be very tough in the Final, especially with the home support. We faced them in 2015, but it will be different this time as they are the home team. This is their biggest strength,” said Salwadi.

The two teams had previously faced off in the final four years back in the 2014-15 season, a match that also incidentally took place at the same venue. While the match itself remained goalless, Services triumphed in penalties by a 5-4 margin.

“We have more flair than them. We’ve already beaten them on a few occasions before. But we need to be careful. They have also beaten us in the 2014-15 Santosh Trophy Final, so we cannot take them lightly”, said Bikramjit.

“They have very good coordination in attack. We brought the whole team to the stadium to watch their semifinal against Karnataka and explained to them how they generate their attacks. So we have made our plans for them accordingly,” he continued.

Services have been one of the most consistent sides in the Final Round of the 2018-19 Hero Santosh Trophy so far; they have been unbeaten in their five matches thus far, netting 11 while conceding just three.

“Definitely, our defence has done really well. We have seen that our team can score at any time. But if we stay strong defensively, it will give our attackers that platform to go on and do well,” added Salwadi, “Having said that, we have also scored 11 goals so far, so we will definitely not hold back. So, you can’t say that we are a defensive side.”

Punjab will be at a slight disadvantage with regards to player availability as their young right-back Chetan Kumar has been ruled out due to a knee injury which he suffered while going for a tackle in their semi-final against Goa.

However, with the home advantage behind Punjab’s back, anything could be possible in the high-intensity final.

Services shootout Karnataka to reach Santosh Trophy final

LUDHIANA: Services huffed and puffed and finally got over the line in a thrilling penalty shootout against a 10-man Karnataka side in the second semi-final of the Hero Santosh Trophy at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Friday.

Services took the early lead with a Lallawmkima goal but Karnataka levelled the score in the 84th minute from a Nikhil Raj strike after going down to 10 men in the 70th minute as Ashik AS got the marching orders.

Karnataka, being the more attacking side, started the match off with their swift passing style moving the ball around the Services area. However, it was Services, who surged into the early lead on the seventh minute, when a cross from the right was controlled well by Lallawmkima inside the box as he slotted it into the far bottom corner of the net.

The side from South India continued to probe the Services third of the pitch throughout the match but failed to make much of an impression in front of goal.

Karnataka came out in the same vein of form in the second half as well, managing to launch attack after attack near the Services area. Forward Leon Augustine looked to be the biggest threat down the middle.

Near the hour mark, the striker even managed to drop his shoulders and jink past a couple of defenders before unleashing a shot that was smartly saved by Services keeper Vishnu VK.

However, Karnataka suffered a further disadvantage in the game in the 70th minute, when defender Ashik A S was sent off for a rash tackle near the Karnataka penalty area. While the resulting free-kick crashed into the wall, but a melee ensued that saw Karnataka defender Namgyal Bhutia clear the ball off the goal-line.

Against all odds, however, Karnataka clawed their way back when substitute Nikhil Raj ran through into the Services box and slipped it past the keeper with just six minutes of regulation time left.

As the match entered extra time, both sides attempted to take the lead but perhaps fatigue played its part as the intensity waned, especially towards the second half of extra time.

Karnataka started off the penalty shootouts on a low, as captain Vignesh Gunashekar sent his spot-kick crashing into the post. While Services scored all their four penalties in between, Karnataka substitute Manoj Swamy Kannan hit their fifth spot-kick wide, to send Services into the Final.

This victory means that Services have made it to the 11th Santosh Trophy Final in their history. They will now be gunning for their sixth title against hosts Punjab at the same venue on Sunday (April 21, 2019).

Harjinder Singh’s last gasp goal send Punjab into Santosh Trophy final

LUDHIANA: Punjab made it through to their 15th Hero Santosh Trophy final on Friday at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, beating traditional rivals Goa by a 2-1 margin.

It will give some solace to Punjab, who had lost to Goa 0-1 in the 1983-84 Santosh Trophy Final.

Harjinder Singh scored the winning goal on this occasion to put the home side into the final.

Punjab started off the match with great gutso plunging into the attack from the get-go.The home side was heavily reliant on their wide players Sunny and Jaspreet Singh. Both the wide players toiled hard to generate swift attacks, aiming the ball at the heavily-marked striker Vikrant Singh.

However, it was Jaspreet, who sneaked into the box from the right, and nodded in a cross from the left flank to put Punjab in the lead in the 12th minute.

The Goans were shell-shocked, but they picked up the pace soon. Their striker Lallawmpuia dropped deep to get more involved in the build-up play, which helped them gain more possession over the ball. A foul near the Punjab penalty area towards the end of the first half gave the Goans the perfect opportunity to score the equaliser. However, 19-year-old Lallawmpuia looped his free-kick a couple of feet over the bar.

Goa came out in the second half all guns blazing, as they laid the proverbial siege on the Punjab goal. Punjab attempted to clog the away side out in the middle with four midfielders, while Jaspreet and Sunny operated the flanks as Vikrant played the targetman.

Goa finally got the breakthrough with a minute of regulation time left of the clock, when Joachim Abranches got a shot through a melee of legs in the Punjab box. Keeper Satbir Singh parried it straight to substitute Ronaldo Oliveira, who tapped it into the net.

It took Punjab just a couple of minutes to get their lead back, when Mohd. Asif sent in an indirect free-kick which was nodded in by Harjinder to take the tie away from the Goans.

With this win, Punjab have now entered their 15 Hero Santosh Trophy Final.

Punjab face Goa, Services take on Karnataka in Santosh Trophy semis

LUDHIANA: Hero Santosh Trophy, the 78-year-old National Championship, has reached its business end of the 2018-19 season – the semi-finals, where Punjab, Goa, Services and Karnataka are set to fight it out on Friday, April 19 for a spot in the final.

After a rigorous number of Zonal Qualifiers, a total of 10 teams made it to the Finals. Services, Goa, Delhi, Meghalaya and Odisha were clubbed in Group A, while Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Sikkim and home side Punjab were placed in Group B.

Group A turned out to be a straightforward affair, with Services and Goa finishing with 10 points apiece, four ahead of their nearest opponents Delhi, with the former finishing as group champions by dint of a higher goal difference, as the two sides are tied on the head-to-head front.

Group B was a more complicated affair, as Punjab, with the support of the home crowd behind their back, shot ahead of the rest of the pack on the last matchday, beating Karnataka 4-3 in a thrilling encounter. While the hosts topped the group with nine points, both Karnataka and Maharashtra finished with seven points apiece, the latter thrashing Sikkim 5-0 to reach their current tally.

The two sides had drawn their game, and had even finished the group equal on goal difference. However, Karnataka went through as they had scored one goal more in the entire group.

With the semi-finals all set to kick-off, let’s take a look at the two exciting matches that will decide the finallists of the 2018-19 Hero Santosh Trophy.

SEMI-FINAL 1: PUNJAB VS GOA

Time: 8.30 am

Venue: Gurunanak Stadium, Ludhiana

The two traditional heavyweights of the Santosh Trophy are set to face-off against each other in yet another thrilling clash. This encounter would normally be worthy of a final itself, as the eight-time champions Punjab take on five-time champs Goa.

It will be a special occasion for the Goa players, who will be observing the holy occasion of Good Friday after the completion of the match. With a comparatively more star-studded line-up, Goa will look to brighten their Good Friday celebrations on Friday.

While Sukhpreet Singh has been on form for Punjab, banging in three goals in the Group Stage, Goa will be banking on two of their big guns to get on the scoresheet. Their top scorer in the tournament so far has been 19-year-old Pune FC academy prodigy Lalawmpuia, who currently plies his trade at FC Goa Reserves in the Hero 2nd Division. The Mizoram-born striker has already scored four goals so far.

Apart from the exuberance of Lalawmpuia, Goa also have the experience of Joachim Abranches up front. The 33-year-old has brought in his years of experience at top clubs like East Bengal, FC Pune City, and FC Goa to score three goals.

The mix of youth and experience of Goa, and the vigour of a home side that already has plenty of experience in winning the Santosh Trophy could make this a mouth-watering affair.

SEMI-FINAL 2: SERVICES VS KARNATAKA

Time: 3.45 pm

Venue: Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana

Services have been on fine form in the Group Stage, where the finished without a single loss. In fact, they only dropped points against a formidable Goa side, against whom they drew 1-1. The Group A toppers have exhibited a sturdy backline, letting in only two goals in their four matches so far, keeping two clean sheets in the process.

Meanwhile, their attack, ably led by Lallawmkima and Bikash Thapa, has fired on all cylinders. Their best moment came in their last Group B game against Meghalaya, which they won by a whopping 5-0 margin.

Karnataka, on the other hand, will be banking on their strong attack-line, that has so far scored the highest number of goals in the 2018-19 Santosh Trophy Finals, so far – 12. Defence has been a bit of an issue for this side though, as they have let in seven goals in their four matches. They were, in fact, leading Group B for most of the part, but finished second after losing 3-4 to Punjab in the last game.

It looks to be an enterprising affair between the attack and the defence in the second semi-final that kicks-off in the afternoon.

Santosh Trophy 2018: Kerala shootout Bengal to crown champions

KOLKATA: Kerala defeated defending Champions Bengal 4-2 on penalties after the full-time scoreline read 2-2 to win the 72nd Hero Santosh Trophy at the Vivekananda Yuvabharati Krirangan in Kolkata today (April 01, 2018).

Jithin MS scored in the 19th minute for Kerala while Jiten Murmu drew level in the 68th minute. In extra time, Vibin Thomas first found the net in the 117th minute after Rajon Burman was sent off. Tirthankar scored late into injury time for Bengal to take the game to penalties where Kerala emerged eventual victors.

Bengal were on the attack from the early minutes of the match. Tirthankar Sarkar had two freekick chances from the left side of the area within the first six minutes. While the first one was duly cleared by the Kerala wall, left-back Sreerag G pulled off a goal-line clearance from Monotosh Chakladar’s shot after goalkeeper Midhun V parried it away.

However, 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 Seesan S close by. He then showed some great vision to release Jithin MS on the run. Bengal’s left-back, Abhishek Mukherjee was off his position and with Sourav Dasgupta failing to track the winger, Jithin MS brought up his fifth goal of the tournament by slotting home through goalkeeper Ranajit Majumder’s gates.

All attempts of a comeback from Bengal were thwarted by the southern side. Monotosh Chakladar attempted a header from a set-piece in the 25th minute but went straight to Midhun. Skipper Jiten Murmu tried his luck after the half-hour mark from range but the ball went over the bar.

Afdal VK on the other hand tried to show some trickery in the opposing box but his final shot was poor and wide off target. Tirthankar Sarkar continued to deliver dangerous and powerful freekicks, all of which were defended well by a solid Kerala defence.

Injury time in the first half threw some excitement. First, Bidyashagar Singh ran in and forced a corner after Lijo S deflected his shot. The ensuing flag-kick was cleared and Rahul KP initiated a counter-attack. Anurag PC ran with the ball close to 50 yards and triggered Jithin MS on the right. Ranajit thankfully got a touch to his cross which resulted in Afdal VK losing his momentum and the striker took a hard fall in front of an empty net as his shot went over. Kerala led at half-time by a solitary goal to nil.

The first bit of real action after the change of ends came a minute past the hour mark. Afdal VK turned the other way and played a backheel for Jithin MS, whose low cross was squandered by Anurag PC in the box.

Bengal woke up from their slumber after that and put the foot on the gas. Ankit Mukherjee floated a long ball in the 66th minute and Jiten 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.

Jithin Gopalan missed a glaring chance in the 83rd minute with Sourav Dasgupta coming off with a clean tackle. Afdal missed another chance with two minutes to go with Ranajit off his line and both Bengal defenders combining to clear the ball with the goalkeeper absent. The scoreline was tied 1-1 at full-time.

Visibly tired, both teams slowed down in the thirty minutes.Kerala had the numerical advantage in the last eight minutes when Rajon Burman was sent off in the 112th minute. 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 second goal 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 Sarkar had other plans when he converted from a freekick from 25 yards in the sixth minute of injury time, taking the game to a shootout after both teams were tied at 2-2.

Ankit Mukherjee and Nabi Hussain Khan missed the first two penalties for Bengal as Midhun V saved both. Tirthankar Sarkar and Sanchayan Samadder’s conversion did not help as Kerala had a cent percent record with Rahul V Raj, Jithin Gopalan and Jestin George all scoring. For the final kick, Jiten Murmu took on the gloves but Seesan S shot past the striker to deliver Kerala the Hero Santosh Trophy.

Santosh Trophy 2018: Bengal, Kerala set for final showdown

KOLKATA: Bengal and Kerala are both aiming to end a remarkable Hero Santosh Trophy campaign by winning the title when they face off in the championship clash at Vivekananda Yubabharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday (April 1, 2018).

These are two of the most successful teams in the 72-year history of the competition, with Bengal unrivalled on 32 titles and Kerala five-time winners.

Bengal eased Karnataka in a nervy semifinal encounter as two of the veterans in the side Jiten Murmu and Tirthankar Sarkar scored for Bengal to set-up a meeting with Kerala after they beat Mizoram 1-0 in their semifinal.

Kerala have emerged the overwhelming favourites at the tournament thus far, but face their biggest test yet in a Bengal team that knows all about them, having faced the Southern outfit earlier in a redundant Group A game.

Kerala managed a 1-0 win in the meeting at Mohun Bagan Ground but Bengal Head Coach Ranjan Chowdhury feels the final clash is a different game altogether.

Bengal, who will carry the advantage of being the home side, have built their success around a solid defence that has only conceded two goals so far in the tournament, while they have relied heavily on the star quality of Jiten Murmu at the other end.

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

Speaking about the opponents he said, “Kerala is a very strong and organized team. They are very strong defensively and got many talented players. Whoever wins tomorrow needs to earn the trophy by playing well.”

Nearly half of the Bengal squad are playing their first Santosh Trophy, with many of them in their early 20s and there are only four survivors from the team that won the title under Mridul Banerjee last year Ankit Mukherjee, Ranajit Majumder, Sourav Das Gupta and Manotosh Chakladar.

Kerala have not won the trophy since 2005 and lost on penalties to Services in the final five years ago at home in Kochi.

Satheevan Balan’s charges have seemed like a side on a mission to end their title drought and have been a joy to catch in the tournament with excellent team work display.

The Southern outfit are quick off the blocks on both flanks with a solid midfield marshalled by Seesan S and Jithin Gopalan. The strike pair of Afdal VK and Anurag PC can tear apart any defense on their day.

“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.” Satheevan Balan said.

For many a fan, Kerala is the favourite to win the ultimate at the ten-team tournament, but Satheevan Balan not reday to give ear to that assertion insisting Bengal have an equal chance of being crowned champions.

“We are not favourites. Since we arrived here, we take every game as a final and against Bengal will be same. We will put in our best to make sure we win. We have an idea of the Bengal team having played them earlier in the tournament but we are talking of the final and surely it will be different,” he added.

Santosh Trophy 2018: Kerala edge Mizoram to enter final

KOLKATA: Five-time champions Kerala made it to the final of the 72nd Santosh Trophy with a 1-0 win over Mizoram in the semi-final match held at the Mohun Bagan Ground on Friday (March 20, 2018).

Substitute Afdal VK’s goal in the 54th minute upturned the Mizoram cart, who certainly were the better team on the day. Thereby, Kerala reached their first final since the 2012/13 edition of the tournament.

Given the nature of the tie, both sides started off cautiously. However, Mizoram showed much more promise especially Lalbiakhlua who managed to get the game going from the right flank.

Within ten minutes, Mizoram were winning all sorts of set-pieces but Lalnuntluanga’s free-kick ricocheted off the wall, while Hming Thanmawia’s effort went over the bar.

Lal Romawia could not add to his four goals in the tournament when he swivelled in from around 17 yards as Midhun V made an outstretched save, diving to his right after the quarter hour mark.

Mizoram had a golden opportunity in the 33rd minute to get the lead but Romawia missed from closed range. Lalrinpuia’s shot forced Midhun to fist the ball out but the North-Eastern side could not take advantage from the goalmouth melee.

Kerala’s only bright chance in the first half was Rahul KP’s miss from the edge of the box on the volley. Such incompetence in the first half prompted Balan to usher in striker Afdal VK for an ineffective Sajith Poulose just before the whistle.

That substitution paid immense dividends nine minutes after the change of ends. Collecting the ball from a diagonal pass, Jithin MS made a darting run from the right and cut in to dodge past two men. Rahul KP shot from his square pass but ‘keeper Laltanpuia Ralte parried it off. Afdal VK, unmarked took his chance from the rebound and slotted the ball home to give Kerala the lead against the run of play.

The setback caused some panic amongst the Mizoram ranks but they had no one to look for inspiration in the dugout with their coach absent from the touchline. Both strikers, Lal Rammawia and Malsawmzuala MC were brought on and the former champions came closest in the 81st minute.

 

Kerala held on to enter a Trophy final after four years, their fourteenth overall. The five-time champions will now face 32-time winners, defending champions and hosts Bengal in the ultimate showdown on Sunday (April 1, 2018).

Santosh Trophy 2018: Bengal blank Karnataka 2-0 to set up Kerala date in final

HOWRAH: Defending champions Bengal moved past Karnataka 2-0 on Friday (March 30, 2018) at the Sailen Manna Stadium in Howrah to set-up a title clash against Kerala in the Santosh Trophy 2018.

Skipper Jiten Murmu and Tirthankar Sarkar scored in the 57th and 90+2nd minute respectively for reigning champions.

Bengal started as the better side but not before long, Karnataka took control of the game. Bengal Head Coach Ranjan Chowdhury deployed Jiten Murmu and Bidyashagar Singh upfront but the duo’s impact was arguably below par, at least in the first 45 minutes.

In the 17th minute, Sukesh Leon of Karnataka hit the woodwork with a header that took Bengal’s goalkeeper, Ranajit Majumder by surprise. The young shot-stopper then followed with two great saves to keep Bengal into the game.

Meanwhile, Bengal had a close chance of their own in the 36th minute through Sumit Das, who covered a lot of ground after getting the ball from midfield but the winger could not keep his effort on target from inside the box. Five minutes later, Bengal had another opportunity but Jiten’s header went wide.

Towards the end, Karnataka made two significant attempts through S. Rajesh and Sukesh, but both efforts produced nothing as the first half ended goalless.

Changing over, both teams seemed keen to make an early impression, but it was Bengal who secured the all-important opening goal in the 57th minute though Jiten. Sumit was given far too much time to line up a shot as he bore down on the Karnataka penalty area, but his fierce effort was adroitly palmed away by Karnataka keeper Shaikhan CP but Jiten was at the right place at right time to slot home from the rebound.

Despite the goal, or perhaps because of it, the match continued to be played on a high tempo. Free-kicks from wide areas for Bengal continued to be an outlet towards the goal as the hosts dominated two thirds of possession in the second half.

Having missed a few half chances, Bengal went extremely close in the 74th minute when Tirthankar played a through ball to Bidyashagar but the teenage striker could not reach to the ball.

Meanwhile, Karnataka also pushed hard for a late equaliser, Shamanth Dodda joined Rajesh in the forward line but Karnataka could find no way through an imperious defence and it was Bengal who looked more likely to score.

Thereafter, Bengal continued to dominate proceedings but had to wait till additional time to get their second. Jiten with a brilliant run on the right got past his marker but was brought down on the edge of the box when he was about to pull the trigger, which earned Bengal a free-kick and Tirthankar made no mistake to put the ball into the back of the net to confirm Bengal’s place in the final.

The 32-time winners, defending champions and hosts Bengal will now face 5-time champions Kerala in the ultimate battle on Sunday (April 1, 2018).