Gokulam Kerala defeated Shillong Lajong with a 3-2 margin today in an I-League match at EMS Corporate stadium in Kozhikode under the scorching sun with a 2 PM kick off.
It was Abdoulaye Koffi who gave Lajong their first goal of the game. Gokulam’s Alajmi equalised in the beginning of the second half but Juho Oh gave Lajong their lead back moments later. With a goal each from Kivi Zhimomi and Arjun Jayaraj afterwards, Gokulam FC eventually came up as the winning side.
Lajong started with the same eleven which handed the team a thumping 0-2 victory away against Neroca FC in Imphal. The Reds started the game looking for a win for the vital three points away from home but it was the hosts who were enjoying the majority of the ball possession in the initial moments of the game. It was in the 17th minute when a poor clearance by a Gokulam player fell perfectly for Koffi and the forward wasted no time to shoot only to see the keeper parry his shot wide of the post.
Midfielder Daniel Odafin then had a go at goal from distance after a poor clearance from a corner but his shot went way off target. Keeper Nidhinlal who was playing his second game for the Reds also has been brought into action by the Gokulam forwards a few times.
Captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia was in charge of the midfield and in the 25th minute, he provided a delightful aerial through ball for Jagne whose first-time shot was saved by the keeper but the rebound fell perfectly for Koffi to tap it into the back of the net to give Lajong the vital opening goal of the game.
The hosts then started to attack with constant pressure looking for an equaliser but the Lajong defence was organised enough to not let anything past them. Both the fullbacks, Rakesh and Novin were getting chances to make their overlapping runs down the wings and Novin once provided Koffi with an inch-perfect cross from the left but the forward’s header just went above the bar. In the three additional minutes added on by the referee, Nidhinlal had to make his first difficult save of the match as he somehow managed to save a header from Gokulam forward Kivi to keep the Reds’ lead intact heading into the dressing room at halftime.
Lajong started the second half with an attacking substitution, Redeem Tlang was brought on to replace Kenstar Kharsong but it was mostly the hosts who were mostly on the attack. Gokulam’s intense attacking finally paid off when Daniel Odafin committed a foul on Alajmi right on the edge of the box and Alajmi himself buried in a perfect free kick to level the score line.
It wasn’t even a minute after the equalising goal when Lajong had a free kick at the other end of the pitch. Samuel again with a beautiful delivery into the box and this time it was defender Juho Oh who was at the end of it with a thumping header to give the Reds their lead back.
Gokulam then went all out on the attack in search of the equaliser with a spree of attacks. The Reds keeper Nidhinlal had to make a few brilliant saves to disappoint the Gokulam players again and again. Lajong’s next real chance at goal was in the 61st minute when defender Laurence Doe’s header from a set piece just went over the bar and denied the visitors to double their lead.
Nidhinlal was at his best making saves after saves to deny the Gokulam players but eventually, he was beaten again when Kivi Zhimomi scored a screamer from the edge of the box to level the score again in the 74th minute. Looking for a winner, it was then the Reds who started to dominate the game. Samuel after a cut in from the left saw his shot saved by the keeper but the rebound fell perfectly for substitute Alen Deory whose shot just went wide.
Alen then again had a couple of chances to shoot but his efforts were not troubling the opponent keeper at all. As the referee added on 4 extra minutes at the end of regulation time, Lajong went all out looking for a goal from a corner but paid the price as the hosts caught them on the break and Arjun Jayaraj scored in the dying minutes to put the final nail in the coffin. Lajong after leading in the game twice ended up as the losing side with the score line being 3-2 in favour of the home side.
Shillong Lajong FC will now host Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan on 3rd February at the JN Stadium, Shillong.