The 72nd edition of the Santosh Trophy concluded at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata as Kerala and defending champions West Bengal faced off in the summit clash.
Both the teams came into the match on the back of strong performances through the group stage and the semi-finals. West Bengal, who have won the National Championship a record 32 times in the history, defeated Karnataka in the semifinal by two goals to nil. Kerala, who have won the tournament five times and were making their first final appearance in 13 years, were in red-hot form, conceding just one goal on their way to the final.
The match began evenly poised with both teams attacking with free abandon and saw chances being created at both ends of the pitch. However, it was the South Indian side who struck first with Jithin MS finishing a well-built move from the midfield. Kerala attacker Seesan found the run of Jithin and sent in a well-weighted pass to the striker. Jithin MS controlled the ball well and slotted his effort past the legs of the Bengal keeper.
West Bengal skipper Jiten Murmu and Manotosh Chaklader came close to equalizing in the first half but Kerala held on to the lead as the score was 1-0 at half-time.
The second half saw West Bengal start with conviction as they went all out for the much-needed goal. In the 68th minute, it was Bengal captain Jiten Murmu who rose to the occasion and scored to make it all square in the match. After the goal, Kerala pushed hard for the winner but missed a couple of close chances as the regulation time came to an end and extra time was needed to decide the winner.
West Bengal were the better side in the first half of the extra time but had no goal to show for their dominance. The second half however brought misery on them as Rajon Barman was sent off for fouling the Kerala goalkeeper during a mistimed attack. Kerala quickly capitalized as Vibin scored to take the lead in the match. West Bengal did not give up and continued to attack, despite being one man down, and were rewarded when Tirthankar scored from a free-kick towards the end of the extra time to force the match into the penalty shootout.
Kerala held their nerves at the death and triumphed with a 4-2 scoreline as West Bengal missed a couple of spot-kicks at the start as Kerala emerged victorious for the sixth time in the prestigious Santosh Trophy.