I-League: In-form Gokulam takes on formidable East Bengal

East Bengal, with 26 points, is placed third in the I-League table, while Gokulam FC Kerala, with 13, is lying at the very bottom.

Gokulam FC Kerala team during a training session at Corporation stadium in Kozhikode.   -  S. RAMESHKURUP

One team is playing for the title, the other, pride. East Bengal, with 26 points, is placed third in the I-League table, while Gokulam FC Kerala, with 13, is lying at the very bottom.

Yet, Saturday’s game at the Corporation Stadium could be a fascinating one. Not just because the visitors from Kolkata would be playing under pressure to win and thus keep its championship hopes alive.

They are up against a side that has finally found its feet in the endgame after a disastrous beginning and middle. The Kerala men have played some sparkling football in its last few matches. The win against another Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan, that too in the lion’s own den, had come just four days ago.

The 2-1 victory is one of the biggest upsets in the history of the I-League. Coach Bino George, therefore, could afford to smile when he met reporters here on Friday.

“Our strategy of playing a waiting game and launching counter-attacks paid off against Bagan,” he said. “We will play for a win against East Bengal too.”

He said the recent foreign recruits have made his team stronger and sharper up front. “Mahmood Al-Ajmi’s contribution has been remarkable, both as a playmaker and as a motivator,” he said. “Henry Kisekka too has proved a great signing.”

The Ugandan striker scored the winning goal against Bagan. East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil had watched that game and was impressed.

“We are not going to take Gokulam lightly,” he said. “But, we will play for a victory.”