Gokulam Kerala edge past Minerva Punjab FC, throws open I-League race

Minerva Punjab FC remained at the second place in I-League with 29 points from 15 matches after losing 1-0 to Gokulam Kerala FC at home

football Updated: Feb 20, 2018 19:43 IST
Ashutosh Sharma
Ashutosh Sharma
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
Gokulam Kerala FC,Minerva Punjab FC,I-League
Gokulam Kerala-Minerva Punjab FC I-League match in progress in Panchkula.(AIFF)

The I-league title race was thrown wide open yet again with Gokulam Kerala FC registering a 1-0 win over hosts Minerva Punjab FC in Panchkula on Tuesday.

Twice Minerva have fallen to victim to questionable tactics of sitting deep and letting opponents dictate terms. Despite losing to East Bengal 1-0, Minerva once again went into the match with lone striker Chencho Gyeltshen up front and William Opoku behind him in a holding role. The other striker Gagandeep Bali was made to play as a left winger thwarting their chances of fast breaks and counter attacks with lone Chencho doing all the running upfront.

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Even Gokulam coach Bino George pointed out later that he knew the hosts game plan and was ready for it. “They play counter attack game and seeing the possession game not possible, we shifted to direct ball tactic which paid off,” he said.

Gokulam tried playing a possession game but a bumpy ground hampered their game. Despite that the visitors managed to create chances and move the ball around. At least three attempts hit the cross bar before Uganda’s Henry Kisekka managed to slot one in, off a bicycle kick, in the 75th minute.

Gokulam seem to be carrying on from where they had left in their 2-1 win over East Bengal. Their forwards Kivi Zhimomi, Kisekka and Salman made life difficult for the Minerva defence.

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The first half remained goalless and hosts Minerva looked sloppy with the midfield trio of William Opoku, Randeep Singh and Kassim Aidara failing to hold the ball and create chances. The second half saw Gokulam coming much stronger and Minerva failing to find any answers. Mohammed Rashid twice came close from long range efforts, similar to what Cavin Lobo had done in the last match for East Bengal. On both occasions, Minerva were saved by woodwork.

Then in the 75th minute, Provat Lakra managed to find Kisekka, of a throw in. Kisekka first attempt hit the crossbar. But the rebound landed behind Kisekka, who made no error in slotting home the winner. With this win, Gokulam Kerala have now beaten Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab in back-to-back games.

A dejected Minerva coach Khogen Singh was at loss for words trying to explain his team’s inability to close the title race.

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“The boys buckled under title pressure. We are a young side. The team lost its shape and didn’t play as per our expectations,” Singh said.

Match result: Minerva Punjab FC 0 vs Gokulam Kerala FC 1 (Henry Kisekka 75 min)

First Published: Feb 20, 2018 19:43 IST