A pulsating encounter of more than 120 minutes followed by a nail-biting finish courtesy the penalty shoot-out, the Santosh Trophy 2018 final contested between heavyweights Kerala and Bengal had everything a football fan could ask for.
A brave performance from Kerala's goalkeeper between the sticks during the Penalty Shootout helped Kerala eventually prevail despite conceding twice during the regular play. Sportskeeda has a look at the top moments from the game.
Jithin MS continues his dream form
Hailing from Thrissur, the Kerala lad was at his best in the final too. After a thunderous group stage campaign earlier in the tournament, Jithin MS opened the scoring for Kerala in the first half. The FC Kerala striker has also been in top form in the ongoing I-League Second Division. The winger from Thrissur studies at Shree Kerala Verma College, where he has been pursuing BA in Hindi in the first year.
Receiving a peach of a pass from the middle of the park from Sheesham S, Jithin calmly placed the ball into the back of the net beyond the reach of Ranajit Majumdar.
Jithin was a menace for the Bengal defence on the right flank with pacy runs and pin-point crosses into the danger area throughout the course of the game.
Seesan S dominates the midfield
A brilliant ball from the middle of the park found Jithin MS who slotted it home to open the scoring for Kerala. Seesan led the Kerala midfielder and created a number of openings at the front troubling the Bengal defence on regular occasions. The Bengal defensive midfielders had an extremely tough time dealing with Seesan's elegance during the game in the middle of the park.
The Kerala lad also got several opportunities to score himself in the second half, but could not find the back of the net after being outnumbered in the final third.
His pin-point passes often broke the defensive formation of Bengal, giving the strikers up front several chances to score but Bengal somehow managed to hold them on.
Tirthankar Sarkar gives his best
The talisman of the Bengal football team was extremely pivotal with his delightful shots, free kicks and crosses from the right flank of the pitch.
His expertise over set pieces proved lethal. Just when it seemed that Bengal would not be able to equalize in the extra time after being down 2-1, the former Mohun Bagan and current Mohammedan man stood up and delivered in style.
A curling freekick from 22 yards out went past the human wall in the 126th minute of the game to take it to the penalties. Although Sarkar could not take his team over the line, he was exceptional. One for the future for sure!
Sparsely filled Stadium
Bengalis are always known for their intense fandom for football across India. With several big clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan SC in the city plying their trade in the national level competitions with huge loyal fan base at their disposal, fans away from Kolkata expected a full house at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
However, things were different during the game as fans were only spotted in numbers in only a single stand near the VIP and media box. Bengal being the most successful team in the Santosh Trophy with 32 titles should have attracted more numbers in the stands today.
Fans from other parts of the country took to social media to express their disappointment over such a poor turnout for the game indicating a downfall in the football fanaticism in a region which has been always known for its immense love for the game.
6th Santosh Trophy Title For Kerala
Kerala last won the Santosh Trophy title way back in 2004. A region producing talents like IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri over the years suddenly took a slump in form in the national championship.
A win after 14 years for any Kerala side in the national circuit would surely bring joy and jubilation to the people in the football-crazy state down south.
After Gokulam Kerala's resurrection, the Kerala state team is the next side from the state making headlines everywhere.
A team comprising mostly of University and semi-professional players, it has been a fairy-tale ride for the South Indian side as only a few fancied them to go all the way and win the title.