Santosh Trophy 2018: "I had warned my boys about Tirthankar's freekick-taking abilities," says Kerala coach SN Balan

Tirthankar scored an amazing freekick to bring Bengal back into the match
Tirthankar scored an amazing freekick to bring Bengal back into the match
Prasen Moudgal

What's the story?

Amidst jubilant scenes at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, Kerala lifted the Santosh Trophy for the 6th time, clinching the title through an impressive performance in the penalty shootout against defending champions West Bengal.

At the end of the game, Kerala coach SN Balan showered a lot of praise on his wards but also emphasised on how his words of wisdom to the Kerala goalkeeper assisted the team's victory in the end.

In case you didn't know

Kerala had already clinched five Santhosh Trophy titles in the past but had made its last finals appearance in the 2004-05 season when it lost to Punjab in the finals. West Bengal, on the other hand, is the only team with a double-digit figure of wins, emerging as winners a record 32 times in the 72 editions so far.

Heart of the matter

Kerala came into the finals with a lot of confidence, having conceded only once in the entire campaign which got them off to an electric start with Jithin MS finding the net early in the first half to give Kerala the advantage going into half-time.

However, Bengal captain Jiten Murmu scored the equaliser which was soon to be thwarted as Kerala's Vibin scored to regain the lead. With only a little less than a minute to go, a stunning free-kick from Bengal's Tirthankar equalised the scores which took the match into penalties.

Speaking of Tirthankar's attempt, Kerala coach SN Balan said, "I closely followed his game in the previous matches. I know him and he's my trainee, so I told my team to make him pass only to the right or play only to the right. I asked them to prevent him from taking the free-kick from the left or the centre since that is his strong point. However, he took it from the left and scored."

In the shootout, Kerala's goalkeeper pulled off some stupendous saves but was also aided by West Bengal's lack of discipline to trigger wild celebrations on the field. At the end of the game, the coach said, "I told the goalkeeper to look only to his right side. I told him that a minimum of two players will take the free kick to the right and after a few kicks, you will get two to the right, save those mainly."

What's next?

The team, upbeat after their title victory will look to train continuously to keep up their good form in the upcoming tournaments.

Author's take

With their last finals appearance only in 2004-05, the recent title victory will be a shot in the arm for the team which can now train harder and shape a much more dominant side in the future.

Edited by Kishan Prasad


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