The people of Aizawl will have reasons to celebrate tonight as Aizawl FC humbled in-form Gokulam FC at the Rajiv Gandhi (March 2) to end the Hero I-League 2017-18 campaign with 24 points from 18 matches.
Mahmood Al Ajmi (25') calmly converted the penalty kick in the first half but it was cancelled by a sublime brace from Leonce Dodoz (59', 74') before Lalkhawpuiamawia (78') blasted the back of the net to seal the fate of the match. With the win, the defending champion rose to the fifth spot on the table, having pitch-forked Shillong Lajong, which will host Kingfisher East Bengal in three days' time.
The home side made three changes as Santosh Kashyap handed goalkeeper Lalawmpuia his first start of the season. Masih Saighani and Albert were slotted in place of Lalthathanga Khawlhring and Albert Zohmingmawia. Sticking to a 3-5-2 formation, Lalkhawpuimawia and Leonce Dodoz led the forward line.
Bino George made only one change form the last game as Kivi Zhimoni made way for Salman K. Henry Kisseke and Salman K led the line in Aizawl supported by Bahrain midfield maestro Mahmood Al Ajmi.
The sound of beating drums echoed across the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium as Aizawl's Red Army stood loyally behind the team. Dodoz was presented with the first chance of the match but the forward was denied by Bilal Khan's excellent save.
Gokulam replied the favour a few minutes later, Rashin's long ranger was thwarted away by its debutant goalie. Bino's boys started to dominate the proceedings and they were unlucky as Jayaraj's curling effort flew just wide of the target.
Kissaka's shot from inside the box struck Kim Kim-a's arm and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Al-Ajmi stepped up and made no mistake scoring his third goal of the season, first in this match.
Albert had a wonderful chance to level the game after he was released by Andrei's killer pass but the winger could not find the back of the net as goalkeeper Bilal stood firm.
At the stroke of the hour-mark, Bilal was in the receiving end when he slipped Albert's cross a few minutes later which fell to Dodoz and the striker found the back of the net from 4 yards out.
The goal proved to be vital as Aizawl retrieved the rhythm of ITS game. Bino Geroge introduced Naga striker Kivi in place of Al-Ajmi but it was the home side which went all guns blazing today ahead of its colourful home crowd.
Dodoz skipped past Rashid and the Cote D'Ivoire-based striker wrong-footed the goalkeeper to rattle the net once again in the 74th minute.
Aizawl scored its third goal of the match four minutes later as the Reds finally, converted from a corner. Khawlhring's corner was weakly fisted away by Bilal before it fell right in the path of Khawpuimawia who hammered it past Gokulam defenders to notch his third goal of the season following a brace against Indian Arrows.
Gokulam, which has garnered 20 points from 17 matches, will play its final game of the season when it hosts Mohun Bagan on March 6.