PATH TO THE FINAL
The Navy team could not meet the league schedule set initially by the Kerala FA starting in December 2018 due to Santosh Trophy commitments and other unspecified reasons. This meant they ended up playing all their games one after the other from the 18th of April.
Due to the scheduling and an inexplicable gap of two months in between, SBI Kerala and FC Thrissur withdrew from the tournament citing financial burden and the games they played were declared void. This left Group A with only four teams and Indian Navy won their three last home fixtures to top Group A.
In the semis, they won comfortably against FC Kerala 2-0 to reach the final.
Defending champions Gokulam Kerala had a flawless run into the final of the Kerala Premier League. They were unbeaten in the group stages and took on Kerala Blasters [R] in the semis who they edged out in a penalty shoot-out after normal time.
The start to the final saw Gokulam press Indian Navy high up the pitch with the Navy side defending in numbers. The final ball was missing in Gokulam’s armoury today and the Navy goalkeeper was aggressive and took charge of most balls in the box.
Gokulam would miss a gilt-edged chance in the first half after shooting off-target when with the keeper committing forward, all they had to do was place the ball in an empty net. Indian Navy would miss a great opportunity as well after the Navy forward Bipaka Thapa headed off-target from six yards out as the teams headed into the half-time break goalless.
The second half for the most part mirrored the first with Gokulam unable to find space behind Indian Navy and Christian Sabah and Co were reduced to taking potshots outside the box.
The game took shape when a seemingly harsh penalty was awarded to the Navy side for a shoulder barge in the box. The former Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan man PM Britto stepped up to convert from the spot in the 79th minute.
Literally a couple of minutes later, the Navy defenders showed naivety in defence and brought down Christian Sabah at the edge of the box with his back to the goal. Sabah scored from the spot to level the scores in the 81st minute and the game was tied at the end of the 90.
In the penalty shoot-out that followed after regulation time, both teams’ players missed their second penalty and the teams were tied 4-4 after taking five shots apiece.
And just like that, the teams moved towards the even more dreadful sudden death shoot-out.
P. Sameel of Gokulam Kerala missed while Indian Navy’s Abhishek stepped up to score to make it an aggregate of 6-5 on penalties in favour of the Navy team and clinch the title!
|Indian Navy||Gokulam Kerala FC|
|Harikrishna (scored)||Shibil (scored)|
|Riyadh (missed)||Thahir Zaman (missed)|
|Raman Rai (scored)||Sanju (scored)|
|Shahir (scored)||Justin (scored)|
|Sunil (scored)||Christian Sabah (scored)|
|Britto (scored)||Muthu (scored)|