Santosh Trophy 2018 Final: Kerala beat Bengal 4-2 on penalties to secure sixth title

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AIFF Media
The game went into a shootout after matters were level even after extra time, in which Kerala triumphed to take home the title after 14 years...

Kerala emerged as champions of the 72nd Santosh Trophy after winning the final over 10-man Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

Scores were tied 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes and both teams scored a goal apiece to make it 2-2 in extra time. Kerala converted all four spot-kicks while goalkeeper Midhun V saved twice as the defending champions lost 4-2 in the shootout.
 
Earlier Jithin MS (19') broke the deadlock in the first half. Jiten Murmu (68') equalised for the hosts with 22 minutes remaining on the clock. Bengal were down to ten men in the last eight minutes of extra time when Rajon Barman was sent off. Vibin Thomas (117') capitalised but Tirthankar Sarkar (120+6') stretched the game in the last minute of injury time.

The host seemed came out with intent, orchestrating some voracious attacks from the outset. But, star of the tournament, Jithin MS evaded off his marker slammed Seesan's throughball through goalkeeper Ranajit Majumder's legs to help Kerala take the lead against the run of play.

Kerala Santosh Trophy 2018

The Satheevan Balan-coached side could not double their lead due to both their strikers, Afdal VK and Anurag PC's wastefulness upfront. Bengal pushed harder in the second half and soon had an equaliser to show for their efforts when Rajon Barman, a half-time substitute chipped for skipper Jiten Murmu to score on the volley.

Jithin Gopalan and Afdal VK did come close in the final few minutes but neither of their efforts bore fruits as the game went into extra time.

With the humid conditions playing a part, two of Bengal's lynchpins, namely winger Bidyashagar Singh and defender Sourav Dasgupta had to be taken off. Matters worsened when Rajon Barman could not control the ball on the run and Kerala goalkeeper Midhun V ended up with the Bengal striker's boot on his face in the 112th minute and Barman was sent off. 
 



Five minutes later, Vibin Thomas looked to have scored the winner as he headed home from Jestin George's cross with Majumder to blame. However, late drama ensued when Tirthankar converted with his left-foot from a free-kick 25 yards that pushed the game to penalties.

Bengal had a horrific start when Ankit Mukherjee and Nabi Hussain Khan failed from the twelve-yard spot as Midhun pulled off two saves on the trot. Tirthankar and Sanchayan Samadder's efforts went in vain as Rahul V Raj, Jithin Gopalan and Jestin George beat Majumder with ease. 

Surprisingly, Bengal captain and striker Jiten Murmu assumed goalkeeping duties for the final kick. But, Seesan S converted with aplomb, helping Kerala land their sixth overall title and a first since the 2004-05 season.

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