Defending champions West 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 Hero Santosh Trophy 2018.
Skipper Jiten Murmu and Tirthankar Sarkar scored in the 57th and 90+2nd minute respectively for the hosts.
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 didn’t have much of an impact 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’s fierce effort was 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).
(Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)