Santosh Trophy 2018: Kerala hand Bengal first defeat, Maharashtra trounce Manipur
Kerala were boosted by a Rahul KP goal in the 90th minute to hand Bengal their first loss in the 72nd Santosh Trophy while Maharashtra routed Manipur 7-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Ranjit Singh.football Updated: Mar 27, 2018 20:04 IST
Kerala sent Bengal to their first defeat of the 72nd Santosh Trophy on Tuesday, the 1-0 win helping them top Group A on way to Friday’s semi-finals with an all-win record from four games. Bengal too qualified for the penultimate stage of the competition with nine points from four games.
With both teams having sealed semi-final berths going into this match on Mohun Bagan ground, the only thing at stake was who would top the group. Rahul KP’s 90th minute goal ensured that Kerala would. Given that Mizoram, Punjab, Karnataka and even Goa can qualify from Group B on Wednesday neither team knew who they would play on Friday.
“But winning against Bengal in Bengal should give these boys the confidence needed going into the semi-finals,” said Kerala coach Satheevan Balan. An India’s under-19 coach during Stephen Constantine’s first term as national team head coach between 2002-05, Balan has got a slew of players from Calicut University, who won the all-India inter-university title in 2017, in this team.
“I think my under-21 players (each team must have five in the squad and three on the pitch) are the best in this tournament,” said Balan. One of them, Rahul KP, scored the match’s only goal off a delivery from Jithin MS, also an under-21 player.
With officials from Gokulam Kerala FC in the audience, these youngsters will hope they have been noticed. “I have told them to be a careful about choosing clubs keeping in mind how much game time they will get,” said Balan.
About the only positive, Bengal coach Ranjan Choudhuri was that he could rest some of the regulars in a competition where some group league matches were held on alternate days.
Maharashtra win big
In another match at Howrah’s Sailen Manna stadium, Maharashtra beat Manipur 7-2. Ranjit Singh scored a hattrick, netting in the 59th, 77th and 90th minutes. Sahil Bhokare (28th), Nikhil Prabhu (75th), Kiran Pandhare (86th) and Naiqur Ansari (90+3) also scored for the winners in this inconsequential tie. Chanso Horam (17th) and Dhananjay Singh (40th) netted for Manipur.