Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC have started the new season right where they left off last time around. In the opening match of the I-League at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, the hosts got off to a perfect start by defeating Mohamadan by a single goal to take the three points. Last season, Gokulam defeated Al Muhammedan in the closing and deciding match to claim their second title in a row.
Mohamadan started the game at a high pace, with several new signings such as Nouruddin Davronov, Abhishek Ambikar and Abiola Dauda in the starting line-up. Soon Gokulam Kerala also grew into the game and it became an ultimate affair. In the 11th minute, Farshad Nour of Gokulam and Nurin Davronov of Mohamadians were booked by the referee after an altercation.
The first half did not see many clear chances for either side. Aminu Buba approached Gokulam in the 35th minute, but his free kick went just over the bar.
Gokulam Kerala stepped up the game and started the second half more urgently. Rahul Raju and Kristi Davis of the home and away teams, respectively, received yellow cards early in the second half.
Malabaryan then broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. New striker Auguste Somlaga played a quick cross-play with midfielder Farshad Noor before driving in a low shot from outside the box. His attempt fell into the hands of the goalkeeper Mohammedi Zothanmawyah and the ball crossed the goal line.
After falling from behind, Muhammedan coach Andrei Chernyshov made a tactical change bringing in midfielder Veslu Rahman in place of striker Dauda in the 62nd minute. The Black and White Brigade had a good chance to equalize in the 64th minute as Vanlalzwidka raided the Gokulam penalty area but the attack fell short of anything. . On the other side, Farshad Nour entered the Mohammedan area after some great dribbling, but his effort narrowly missed the goal.
Midway through the second half, the match devolved into a midfield struggle. Muhammadan seemed to have run out of ideas and failed to pose any real threat to Gokulam’s defence. In the 83rd minute, their captain SK Vayaz got a good chance in the Gokulam area but his shot went straight to Gokulam goalkeeper Chipinraj Konyel who handled it easily.
The fans attended their first I-League game in over two years and it was great to see them back in the stands. It was clear that the Malabarians had the advantage in the game and had the support of the raucous crowd throughout the match.
Gokulam Kerala will now face Aizawl FC in the first leg on November 18 at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, while Mohammedan SC travel to play RoundGlass Punjab FC on November 20 at Panchkula.
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