Kerala edged past defending champions Bengal 1-0 to qualify for Santosh Trophy 2018 semifinal as group toppers. A 90th-minute strike from Rahul KP sealed full points for the southern state at the Mohun Bagan Ground on Tuesday.
Kerala tactically outclassed the reigning champions and hardly allowed them to impose themselves. After adopting a defensive strategy in the first 45 minutes, Kerala coach Satheevan Balan took a more attacking approach in the second half. They created more chances and finally scored the all-important goal.
Speaking about his team's performance and his own tactics, coach Balan said, "I believe this was a very tough match against a team like Bengal. We wanted a draw in the first half but in the second half we changed the system and played attacking football.
"Definitely winning against the home team is a great confidence-booster. My boys played with inspiration. I didn't see the motivation in Bengal though maybe because they had qualified already."
When asked about potential semi-final opponents, Balan replied, "In this tournament, if you want to win, you have to beat every team. It doesn't matter who our opponents are. My boys are more confident now after beating a side like Bengal."
The average age of this Kerala side is 23 years and when asked about his Under-21 players in the squad, Balan whole-heartedly complemented his team saying, "I believe my U-21 players are the best in the tournament this year. I have seen almost all the teams. Expect for Mizoram's Lalromawia, I didn't see any other quality youngster."