Rajesh's goal clinches win for Gokulam Kerala

Gokulam Kerala has moved up to second on the I-League table with the win over Minerva Punjab.

S. Rajesh's struck on the hour-mark to propel Gokulam Kerala to second in I-League.   -  K. Ragesh

The rousing, rhythmic beats of drums brought the Corporation Stadium to life on Sunday night. Just when it seemed the music would be the most memorable thing about the I-League match between Gokulam Kerala and Minerva Punjab, a lovely move down the right flank produced cheers that sounded even sweeter.

S. Rajesh, who has been a revelation up front for Gokulam this season, finished off that attack in gorgeous fashion with a diving header to give the host a 1-0 win against the defending I-League champion. When the two teams met nine months ago, in the last edition of the league, the result was the same.

That was during the second half of the league, in which Gokulam was on a giant-killing spree, as it staged a great comeback after a disastrous beginning. Bino George’s boys have started much better this time around, in what is only their second I-League season.

With the second win of the season, the club has moved up to second on the table with eight points, five behind the leader Chennai City FC. Minerva stays in the seventh place with four points.

After suffering its second defeat, the Punjab team needs to do a lot of introspection. A bit more enterprise in its attack won’t do much harm, to begin with.

Its players looked content to keep the ball in the midfield, or even in their own half, for much of the opening session. They did a good job too, to blunt the free-scoring strikers of the home side. They managed to stifle Antonio German, who was in roaring form last week here against Shillong Lajong.

Gokulam didn’t show much ambition to go forward either, as the opening half produced a rather dull 45 minutes of football. Even the floodlights lost energy, causing a 20-minute stoppage.

Things heated up in the second half, though, especially after that goal by Rajesh. It was set up by the hard-working Brazilian Guilherme Batata, who gave a fine pass to Gani Ahmed Nigam. V.P. Suhair then received the ball and gave it back to Gani, whose great cross proved just perfect for Rajesh.

The result: Gokulam Kerala FC 1 (S. Rajesh 60) beat Minerva Punjab 0. Man of the match: S. Rajesh

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