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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Karnataka face Bengal hurdle in quest for Santosh Trophy history

Santosh Trophy holders Bengal are 32-time champions and playing at home, while Karnataka last won the title as Mysore in 1968-69

football Updated: Mar 29, 2018 17:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Bengal players train on the eve of their Santosh Trophy semi-final match against Karnataka.
Bengal players train on the eve of their Santosh Trophy semi-final match against Karnataka.(AIFF)

Between them, there are 32 Santosh Trophy titles with all of them being in Bengal’s corner. If you are a little flexible, you can add Mysore’s four titles to the mix but since the last one came in 1968-69, can you blame Karnataka if they feel intimidated going into Friday’s semi-final against the defending champions in Howrah?

That Bengal had an extra day to recover in a competition laden with fixture congestion and are playing at home certainly won’t make it any easier for Karnataka in the 72nd Santosh Trophy. Karnataka coach P Muralidhar acknowledged that by saying his boys better get ready for a very tough match at Howrah’s Sailen Manna Stadium.

But anything can happen in an all-or-nothing game which Karnataka go into as group toppers, something which Bengal couldn’t having lost to Kerala on Tuesday. The defeat came after an ordinary show against Chandigarh, whom Bengal beat 1-0 through the solo effort of Bidyashagar Singh who has been one of the bright spots for the hosts with four goals.

Karnataka began with a 4-1 win against heavyweights Goa after trailing by a 27th minute goal. Like Bengal, Karnataka have lost once, to Punjab by the odd goal in three. They also ground out wins against Odisha and a second-string Mizoram team to come this far.

“Karnataka were among the five teams I had listed as favourites to make the semi-finals. They are strong in attack and can be dangerous down the flanks,” said Bengal coach Ranjan Choudhuri after training here on Thursday.

Bengal will miss midfielder Babun Das who is injured and out of the tournament. Everyone is available for Karnataka.

Mizoram meet Kerala

The other semi-final, at Mohun Bagan ground, will pit Mizoram against Kerala, who are the only team undefeated among the semi-finalists.

“Mizoram have been the best team so far but we are ready to face them,” said Kerala coach Satheevan Balan. In their bid to end a 13-year wait to be the champion state of India, Kerala have got a slew of young players here because Balan said, if nothing else they will gain from this experience.

What could work to Kerala’s advantage is that Mizoram like playing on the ground and the pitch at Mohun Bagan may not help them do that.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 17:29 IST