Advantage Karnataka

Three-time champions take on surprise finalists Orissa today

Advantage Karnataka

 
Shaped by coaches Andrew and Saravanan in three weeks, Karnataka’s journey on home turf has highlighted the wealth of talent in the State, with the players rising to the occasion when the chips are down.

Karnataka were nearly caught off-guard for their defensive ploy in the semifinals by a spirited Mizoram side who stormed back from a 0-2 deficit.
However, Raj Kiran delivered the crucial punch in the second half of extra time as the hosts sneaked into the final. “Luck definitely played a part in the victory,” said Andrew, with a rosary clutched in his hands after the victory on Friday. “However, we missed the services of medios  Shankar and Sridhar M. That cut supplies to striker Vinod Kumar and allowed Mizoram to dominate.”

While Sridhar is poised to make a comeback for Sunday’s summit clash, Karnataka will miss the services of captain Shankar -- an India under-19 player -- who is yet to recover from a back injury suffered in the quarterfinal league game against Tamil Nadu. Vinod, who has scored four goals so far, will continue as the stand-in skipper and will be partnered by Lokesh M upfront.

Andrew said the errors of Friday’s semifinal will not be repeated.  “Yes, we were defensive against Mizoram. But, we will go all out in the final and seek to recapture the trophy at home,” said the coach, who also lifted the trophy for the State as a player in 1979.

Orissa, on the other hand, have had a dream run. Pitted with former champions Goa and Meghalaya in the group stages, they eased into the last-eight stage and started with a crushing win over 17-time winners Bengal.

A draw and a loss against Manipur and Mizoram didn’t shatter them one bit and they knocked out holders Jharkhand in the semis, with goalkeeper Ramesh Chandra Naik doing an excellent job. “The final appears to be 50-50. No side can be called superior,” said Orissa coach Raj Sekhar Pradhan. “We’ve have had a dream run and hope to finish it off on Sunday.”

With the crowd behind them, Karnataka may hold the advantage but Orissa do have the ability to surprise once again!
DH News Service

How the finalists have fared
* Karnataka: Winners: 1979 (bt Andhra Pradesh 1-0), 1991 (bt Manipur 5-3), 2002-03 (bt Goa 1-0).
Runners-up: 1972 (lt to Kerala 0-4), 2003-04 (lt to West Bengal 0-2).
* Orissa: Winners: 1969 (joint winners along with Kerala).
Runners-up: 1962 (lt to West Bengal 0-5), 1977 (lt to West Bengal 0-1).

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