MALAPPURAM: West Bengal heavyweights are reportedly looking to annex their 33rd title when they take on hosts Kerala in the 75th National Football Championship final for the Santosh Trophy here on Monday.

This will be the 46th Eastern State Finals, and they will enter this contest as favorites, due to their outstanding record in the tournament since its inception in 1941.

However, Bengal are set to face a tough test from an in-form Kerala side.

Kerala beat West Bengal in the first round, and Bino George’s men will once again be craving their chances against the most successful side in tournament history.

But West Bengal will look to settle scores by winning this game.

They will also be looking to avenge their final defeat of the 2018 Hero Santosh Trophy, which they lost on penalties after the match ended in a stalemate at the end of regulation time.

The last time the two teams played, the score was tied at 0-0 on the hour mark.

Afterwards, Bengal keeper Priyant Singh faced a barrage of shots and was thwarted in the 84th minute by Noufal while Jesin Thonikkara found the back of the net in injury time.

However, Ranjan Bhattacharjee’s men bounced back from that defeat by winning the rest of the group stage games.

They qualified for the all-important final by recording a massive 3-0 victory over a lackluster Manipur side in the semi-finals on Friday.

Sujit Singh, Mohammed Fardin Ali Molla and Dilip Orawn were on target as they beat Manipur with utmost ease.

“The match between Kerala and West Bengal will be exciting, and I hope the fans will tune in,” West Bengal coach Bhattachejee said ahead of the game.

“Tomorrow’s game will be a competitive contest, and the team that can convert more opportunities in the first and second half will win the Hero Santosh Trophy at home,” he added.

Asked about the injury concerns, Bhattacharjee said: “The West Bengal team are absolutely fit and active.

Kerala, on the other hand, beat Karnataka 7-3 in the semi-finals to secure a place in the title clash. Jesin TK scored an astonishing five goals for the six-time champions, while Shighil and Arjun Jayaraj each scored one goal each.

Kerala won three games in the first round while playing a 2-2 draw with Meghalaya.

“We will face West Bengal in the final match of the Hero Santosh Trophy 2021-22 tomorrow. So the aforementioned match is crucial for us, and we will consider it a do or die match,” Padinjarathala remarked.

“I want to beat Bengal tomorrow and bring the trophy home for our fans, who have supported me throughout the tournament,” he concluded.


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