SANTOSH TROPHY: Kerala takes on West Bengal in a crucial Group A fixture

Both sides are among the favourites for the title but the overwhelming crowd support should give the hosts an extra gear to work with. 

Published: 17th April 2022 09:12 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2022 09:12 PM   |  A+A-

Kerala skipper Jijo Joseph who scored a hat-trick against Rajasthan.

Express News Service

KOCHI: West Bengal are the most successful team in the Santosh Trophy with 13 titles to their name. But when they take on Kerala in a crucial Group A encounter in the national football championship, it will be like they'll be up against more than eleven men.

Fans could play a crucial role as they provided vociferous support for hosts Kerala, and with the final round of the national competition being held in the football belt of Malappuram, they are turning it into a spectacle.

There was a wave of supporters who cheered every more of Bino George's team as Kerala raced away to a 5-0 win against Rajasthan with skipper Jijo Joseph leading from the front as he struck a sublime hat-trick.

Meanwhile, West Bengal comes into the game on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 win over Punjab with Shubham Bhowmick scoring the winning goal.

In fact, it will be a repeat of the 2017-18 final where Kerala beat West Bengal at their own turf as they won the title in Kolkata. With Kerala's previous title coming in the 2004-05 edition, it was a long wait. As for West Bengal, they had won the championship back in 2016-17 and they'll have revenge on their minds after the defeat on home soil.

Both sides are among the favourites for the title but the overwhelming crowd support should give the hosts an extra gear to work with. 

The jury is still out on whether Kerala has a strong enough squad to go all the way and win the title this time out.

With Punjab also in the group, the passage into the semifinal will not be easy and this encounter takes added significance for both sides to keep their qualification hopes alive. Bino would once again hope that the likes of Jijo and Arjun Jayaraj take their form and experience into the game against WB. Unlike the first game against Rajasthan, it could be a closely-fought affair given the quality of West Bengal.

While expectations will be high for Kerala, what could work in the favour of West Bengal is that they will be playing without pressure as Kerala would start as favourites.

On Sunday, Odisha and Karnataka played out a six-goal thriller with the Group B encounter ending 3-3. Jamir Oram gave Odisha the lead before Karnataka raced away to a 3-1 lead. Sudheer Kotikela scored the equaliser before Bavu Nishad made it 2-1. Sudheer struck again to give Karnataka a two-goal cushion.
Odisha went onto stage a fightback as they clawed their way back into the game. Bikash Kumar Sahoo reduced the deficit before Muduli equalised the two sides shared the spoils.



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