TRAU FC 2 (Fernandinho 8’, 56’)
Gokulam Kerala FC (Jithin MS 2’, Luka Majcen 18’, 55’)
Gokulam Kerala FC extended their unbeaten run at the start of the Hero I-League 2021-22 campaign to five matches with a 3-2 win over Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU FC) at the Kalyani Stadium on Monday. An early goal from Jithin MS, followed by a brace from Luka Majcen saw the Malabarians get the better of TRAU FC, who registered two goals thanks to a brace from Fernandinho.
Defending champions Gokulam Kerala wasted no time in taking the game to their opponents, finding an early breakthrough in the 2nd minute of the contest. Jithin MS scored for the Malabarians for the third game running, as he made an undetected run into the TRAU FC box to get on the end of a cross from the left flank. TRAU goalkeeper Amrit Gope misjudged the flight of the ball and got stranded in no man’s land, leaving Jithin the easy task of directing the ball into the empty net.
Despite trailing, TRAU FC didn’t lack for any attacking intent of their own, and levelled the contest through Brazilian import Fernandinho in the 8th minute. After Kishan Singh had his snapshot saved by Rakshit Dagar, Fernandinho slid in to poach the rebound and bring TRAU back on level terms.
The parity was to last for a brief period of ten minutes only, as Gokulam Kerala’s talisman Luka Majcen put the defending champions in front once again in the 18th minute. Majcen rose highest in the box to meet a cross from the left flank and place his header back across goal, leaving keeper Amrit Gope no chance.
Gokulam Kerala had a golden opportunity to extend their lead further in the 20th minute when in-form striker Majcen turned provider this time, playing a lofted through ball for Thahir Zaman. Zaman did well to bring down the ball with his first touch, but skied his finish well over the bar.
Gokulam skipper Sharif Mohammad had a look at goal from a free kick in the 39th minute. Although the Afghan international struck the dead ball well, his shot didn’t dip enough in time to draw a save from Amrit Gope.
An eventful first half ended with Gokulam narrowly leading the contest 2 – 1 at half time.
Gokulam Kerala doubled their lead on the other side of the break in the 55th minute. After playing a short corner that failed to find its mark in the box, the partially cleared ball landed at the feet of Luka Majcen. The Slovenian didn’t need a second invitation to grab the chance with both hands, unleashing a first time finish on the volley that rifled into the roof of the net.
With the chips down, TRAU FC showed their fighting spirit once again with an instant response in the 56th minute. Fernando set out on a mazy dribble on the edge of the Gokulam box and bamboozled the defence to come onto his left foot and send a low drive into the far corner, thereby matching Luka Majcen for a brace each.
With the final half an hour promising a nervy showdown, TRAU FC tried to pile the pressure on the defending champions and force an equaliser. TRAU’s best chance came in the dying moments of the game as they committed more and more bodies in attack. With the Gokulam penalty area extremely crowded, a looping cross was met with a towering header at the back post by Akobir Turaev, but his effort was matched with a fantastic save by Rakshit Dagar on the goal line.
Gokulam Kerala forward Luka Majcen was awarded the Hero of the match award for his brace resulting in a victory for his side, taking the Malabarians to the top of the Hero I-League table.