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Santosh Trophy

Santosh Trophy Final Kerala vs West Bengal : 5 players to watch out for

04:40 BST 01/05/2022
Kerala Bengal
Kerala had already beaten Bengal in the group stages of this edition of Santosh Trophy...

Two of India's hotbeds of football, Kerala and West Bengal, will clash against each other in a classic encounter in the Santosh Trophy final on Monday evening at the Manjeri Payyanad Stadium in Malappuram.

The eastern state might be the most successful team in the history of the Santosh Trophy with 32 titles but this Kerala side will be a difficult customer to deal with. They had already beaten Bengal 2-0 in the group stages and this will be a major morale booster for Bino George's men. In the final 30 minutes of that match, Bengal keeper Priyant Singh faced a barrage of shots and was finally beaten in the 84th minute by Noufal. Jesin Thonikkara, who grabbed headlines for scoring five goals in the semifinal against Karnataka, had also found the net in injury time.

Although Ranjan Bhattacharjee's men recovered quickly after that loss and went on to win all the matches thereafter, they know pretty well that they have a tough task at hand. An experienced candidate like Manotosh Chakladar and in-form forward Fardin Ali Molla will be key to their chances of lifting their 33rd Santosh Trophy. Moreover, they must not have forgotten the 2017 final loss to Kerala at the Salt Lake Stadium, when they were defeated in the tiebreakers.

Before the semifinal, Bhattacharjee spoke with caution. Against Manipur, after taking an early lead, they showed they can maintain their defensive shape and absorb pressure, which will once again prove to be key against Kerala. The duel between Jesin and centre back Tuhin Das will be the one to look out for as the striker has been in phenomenal form.

Jesin Thonikkara

The forward has become the blue-eyed boy of the Kerala fans after he scored five goals after coming on as a substitute in the semifinals against Karnataka. He took just 13 minutes to score his hat-trick which showed his clinical ability in front of goal. His understanding with Noufal and Jijo Joseph has been outstanding and Bengal defenders will have their hands full to keep a check on him. With his five strikes, he beat the record of most goals in a match for Kerala which was set by Asif Saheer in 1999 when he scored four against Nagaland.

Jijo Joseph

Jijo Joseph has been in excellent form right from the beginning of the tournament. He has been the livewire for Kerala on the left and has also scored a hat-trick against Rajashthan in the group stages. He not only scores but can also set up his teammates as it was his assist against Bengal that broke the deadlock in the dying minutes of the game. Against Punjab, he was the difference-maker once again as he scored both the equaliser and the winner. He will be a key player for Kerala in the final.

Arjun Jayaraj

The midfielder is one of the most experienced heads in this Kerala side. He has played for Gokulam Kerala in I-League and knows what it takes to play at the top level. He is adept at breaking down attacks of the opposition and also possesses the passing ability to initiate quick counters. He also got on the scoresheet in the semifinal which will be an added morale booster for the holding midfielder.

Fardin Ali Molla

The striker has been in prolific form in this edition of the Santosh Trophy. His goal against Manipur was a thing of beauty as he skillfully dodged past his marker with a body feint before beating the keeper. He has struck six goals so far and is in great form. His performance on Monday night will be crucial for Bengal as they look to take revenge for their 2017 loss.

Priyant Singh

The custodian has made some brilliant saves throughout the tournament and will once again have to put his best foot forward in the final. The 30-year-old keeper has the experience of playing in the colours of East Bengal and Mohammedan which should prove crucial in a match of this magnitude. He put in an impressive shift against Manipur in the semifinal and even denied Somishon Shirak in a one-on-one situation. He remains calm and composed even during tense moments which helps him to perform better. He will be one to watch out for against Kerala.