West Bengal will battle aganist surprise package Karnataka in the 72nd Santosh Trophy semifinal at the Sailen Manna Stadium in Howrah on Friday (March 30, 2018). The match kicks-off at 2:30 PM.
Karnataka’s presence in the semifinal could hardly have been expected at the start of the tournament. Yet they fully deserve to step out against Bengal, who will start as favourites.
The defending champions Bengal began their final round campaign with a comprehensive victory over Manipur followed by easy wins over Maharashtra and Chandigarh, before losing their final group game against Kerala.
However, Bengal coach Ranjan Chowdhury does not seem to be effeted by the defeat that came right before the semifinal, as the former striker stays confident ahead of the pre-summit clash and fancy his team’s chances against Karnataka.
“A semifinal match is more tricky than the final itself because when you lose it, it becomes a matter of so close yet so far. It’s an important game but end of the day, it’s just another game and we need to play good football to win.” Ranjan Chowdhury said on the eve of the clash.
Measuring the opponents strength he added, “Karnatka is a good team, they qualified for the semifinals due to their quality.”
“Karnataka has a lot of good players, we expect a very tough game, physically very demanding. So, we must prepare well. Several players of Karnataka appear in the 2nd Divsion League League. They are physically dominant, fast, strong and will be a good opponent. It is for us to achieve a positive result.”
On the other hand, Karnataka, who won the Santosh Trophy last time in 1968/69 as Mysore, topped the Group B after beating teams such as Goa, Odisha and Mizoram. Karnataka’s success in the competition has been based on their dogged determination and defensive organisation, which make up for their lack of fire power upfront.
While Karnataka will be trying to continue their fairytale, Coach P. Muralidharan is thinking much more pragmatically and is concerned about the fast and furious nature of the tournament. Bengal will certainly have a slight edge as they have the advantage of an extra day rest ahead of the match.
“We have young players hungry to play and keen to win. Now that we have reached the semifinals, anything can happen,”said P. Muralidharan.