AFC Cup: Gokulam Kerala beats ATK Mohun Bagan in group opener

In its AFC Cup debut, Gokulam Kerala stunned ATK Mohun Bagan in the opening Group D match.

All the six goals came in the second half with Slovenian play-maker Luka Majcen (99) finding the net twice for Gokulam Kerala.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Gokulam Kerala FC made its recent I-League triumph count in a big way as it comprehensively outplayed the Indian Super League giant ATK Mohun Bagan 4-2 in the opening fixture of AFC Cup’s group D league, at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.

All the six goals came in the second half with Slovenian play-maker Luka Majcen finding the net twice while Rishad Pazhaya and substitute Jithin M.S. accounted for a goal each to secure the big win for Gokulam Kerala.

ATK Mohun Bagan reduced the margin through Pritam Kotal and Lenny Rodrigues, who converted two set-piece opportunities coming their way.

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The big win gave Gokulam Kerala the confidence to dream about more good results in its future outings in the group. The I-League champion showed the right discipline and proper planning to first absorb the ATKMB attacks in the first half before successfully launching its offensives to the break to secure the grand upset.

Mohun Bagan could well have wrapped up the match in the first half itself but with his attackers like Roy Krishna and Joni Kauko missing the mark from close on multiple occasions the scoreline remained barren.

The ATKMB suffered a setback in the 36th minute when its Spanish centre-back Tiri was stretchered off after suffering a suspected ACL injury.

Gokulam Kerala switched gears after the break and started probing deeper in the ATKMB defence. With Tiri out of action, ATK Mohun Bagan defence crumbled in face of the GKFC attacks. Luka secured the lead for GKFC in the 50th minute by scoring off an assist from Tahir Zaman.

 

Pritam Kotal volleyed home a corner to restore parity for ATKMB in the 53rd minute but Gokulam Kerala replied with more intensity to make it 3-1 by the 65th minute with Rishad (57th) and Luka (65th) striking in tandem. Liston Colaco scored directly from a free-kick to make it 3-2 in the 80th minute but GKFC took the match away when substitute Jithin made it 4-2 in the 89th minute.

“We studied ATK Mohun Bagan’s previous matches and found out that they lost much of their intensity in the second half. We set our plans accordingly and started attacking after the break and got the result in our favour,” said the GKFC coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese.

“With this win we were able to prove that there is barely any difference between I-League and ISL. We have successfully blown away the myth that is being built around the ISL," Annese added while analysing his team's performance.

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"Despite consistently playing a high level of football the National coach (Igor) Stimac does not consider our players for selection to the National team. That is unfortunate," Annese said.

"We had a few chances in the first half but failed to get the lead. Then the injury to Tiri forced us to change our plans. And then we could not show the required alertness during the moments of transition," said the ATK Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando. According to the ATKMB club sources Tiri suffered an ACL and is likely to be out of action for seven months.

Results (Group D): Gokulam Kerala FC 4 (Luka 50, 65, Rishad 57, Jithin 89) bt ATK Mohun Bagan 2 (Pritam 53, Liston 80); Bashundhara Kings (Nuha Marong 33) 1-0 Maziya
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