Gokulam Kerala’s quest for a hat-trick of titles in the I-League began on a promising note here on a wet Saturday evening.
In a repeat of the last match of the last season, the host overcame Kolkata side Mohammedan Sporting, which finished as the runner-up in May.
Cameroonian striker Auguste Junior Somlaga’s 57th-minute goal proved decisive at the Malappuram District Sports Complex Stadium.
It was a well-contested encounter, featuring quite a bit of end-to-end football, enjoyed by a crowd of more than 8,000.
Mohammedan survived an early scare, as Gokulam’s P.N. Noufal sent a fine pass into the box from the left, but his teammates failed to take advantage. At the other end, the Kolkatans got a couple of free-kicks, from dangerous positions, within the first half-hour.
After the interval, the Gokulam men began to put more pressure on the Mohemmadan goal, and they were soon rewarded. Farshad Noor, the hard-working midfielder from Afghanistan, gave a short pass from just outside the box to Somlaga, who drove the ball firmly towards the goal. Goalkeeper Zothanmawia Pachuau failed to stop the ball and watched in despair it going past the goalline.
Gokulam did well to convert that slender lead into three points making the new coach, Richard Towa, a relieved man.
The result: Gokulam Kerala 1 (Auguste Junior Boum Somlaga 57) bt Mohammedan Sporting 0.
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