Bengal wary of Karnataka, Mizoram no pushovers against dominant Kerala
Kolkata, Mar 29 (PTI) Defending champions Bengal will be up against 'surprise package' Karnataka, while Kerala and Mizoram will clash in a battle of two dominant sides in the semifinals of the national football championship for the 72nd Santosh Trophy here tomorrow.
Karnataka, who won the Santosh Trophy last time in 1968-69, emerged as surprise group B toppers after beating teams such as Goa, Odisha and Mizoram.
While Karnataka will be trying to continue their fairytale, coach P Muralidharan said they are "hungry" to win against Bengal at the Howrah Maidan Stadium.
"We have young players hungry to play and keen to win. Now that we have reached the semifinals, anything can happen," Muralidharan said.
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, and they will be up against a side that has been a record 32-time champions.
Bengal have won without much fuss against Manipur, Maharashtra and Chandigarh, before losing their final group game against Kerala in a game their top players were rested.
"Several players of Karnataka appear in the second division League. They are physically dominant, fast, strong and will be a good opponent. It is for us to achieve a positive result," Bengal coach Ranjan Chowdhury said, refusing to see much into their last round loss to Kerala.
An exciting contest will be on the cards when Kerala and Mizoram lock horns at the Mohun Bagan ground.
Five-time former champions Kerala have been the most dominant sides of the competition and are tagged favourites to win the competition for the first time since 2005.
Kerala started off with a victory over Chandigarh before beating Manipur, Maharashtra and hosts Bengal in subsequent matches and have scored 15 goals.
Mizoram, on the other hand, will be no pushovers as they showed also won Goa, Punjab and Odisha before stumbling against Karnataka in their last group B match where they rested as many as eight of their regular starters.
All of them will be fresh and raring to go in the big match, something that was acknowledged by Kerala coach Satheevan Balan.
"Mizoram is one of the best teams in the tournament. I believe it be an intense match with a lot of pressure. There are several things that we are working on and hopefully during the game it will work," Balan said