Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC continued their I-League winning streak, beating Aizawl 1-0 in a back-to-back second-round match at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl on Friday.
Zahir Zaman’s perfect header three minutes after the final whistle proved enough to send Malabaryan back into the dressing room with three points and stay top of the table with six points from two matches.
The match began with Gokulam Kerala executing the initial attacks through the flanks, but the home side soon developed into the game and the tie devolved into a midfield struggle.
As the first half progressed, Goculam’s Cameroon striker Auguste Somlaga was involved in some positive movement but was adequately tackled by Aizawl’s defensive duo of Emmanuel Makinde and Akito Saito.
After some time, the host side also pressed higher and started some moves. Their best attempt of the first half came two minutes before half-time when Aizawl’s Henry Kissika volleyed in from the left but his effort went just wide.
The game restarted with Aizawl FC showing plenty of urgency on the front foot. The home team came close in the 53rd minute as R Ramdinthara, who received the ball in the penalty area after a good build from the wing, could not control his shot. A minute later, Aizawl received a corner kick that resulted in a powerful header from Nigerian Makinde. His head skipped the post.
The boisterous fans continued to galvanize the home team as they kept pressing through the passing game. Aizawl’s 20-year-old R Lalthanmawia tried out right-footed football, but his shot went straight to Gokulam Kerala goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil.
On the other hand, the visitors remained organized throughout and absorbed all the pressure from the home team, making regular movements into the opposition area.
Their resolve proved successful as they scored the winning goal in the 87th minute. A superb cross from the right by Arjun Jayaraj was neatly finished by substitute Zahir Zaman.
During the period of addition, Kesica found himself unmarked during a corner kick but was unable to keep his header on goal, thus missing the chance to equalise. The hosts took the lead in the final minutes of the game but it wasn’t enough for them as Gokulam Kerala sealed all three points.
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