I-League: Dicka's brace helps Punjab FC past Gokulam Kerala

The result sees Punjab FC remain in second place with 14 points, thee points behind leader Mohun Bagan, while Gokulam Kerala stays fifth with 10 points.

Dipanda Dicka (R) scored a second half brace to give Punjab FC all three points.   -  Special Arrangement

A Dipanda Dicka brace helped Punjab FC registered a 3-1 victory over Gokulam Kerala FC in the I-League at the Guru Nanak Stadium on Monday. The win sees it go two points behind table leader Mohun Bagan, which won against East Bengal in the Kolkata derby yesterday.

Sergio Barboza Jr. broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time before a Henry Kisekka goal drew the visitors level in the 52nd minute. Dipanda Dicka restored Punjab’s advantage via a free-kick in the 64th minute, before adding his second in stoppage time to seal the three points.

Punjab coach Yan Law named an unchanged starting XI, choosing not to experiment. His Gokulam counterpart Fernando Varela, on the back of the resounding win against East Bengal, made two changes to his side, with Mohamed Irshad and Muthu Irulandi getting the nod in his 3-5-2.

The visitor made its intentions clear right from the start. Just twenty seconds into the game, Marcus Joseph's effort from distance was parried onto the frame of the goal by a fully stretched Kiran Limbu.

In the third minute, Joseph was in the thick of things again. His corner took an unexpected swerve towards the goal that caught everyone by surprise, but Limbu did well to punch it clear.

Punjab looked all over the place, struggling to get out of its own half, as Gokulam took control of the game. In the 16th minute, Joseph whipped in a beautiful cross from a set-piece down the right flank that was met by the toe of Jestin George. His speculative touch ricocheted off the near post and fell to Joseph, who blasted it wide.

In the 33rd minute, Salman Kalliyath was played through down the right and with only a man to beat, made a total mess of it. Caught between two minds – on whether to shoot or pass it to a lurking Kisekka – ended up doing neither.

Against the run of play, Punjab took the lead in the first minute of first-half stoppage time. A Cavin Lobo strike from distance deflected off Dipanda Dicka and fell kindly to Sergio Barboza Jr., who made no mistake in beating the keeper.

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Sergio Barboza celebrates after giving Punjab FC the lead just before halftime.   -  Twitter/I-League

 

In the second half, Gokulam stuck to its game plan and was rewarded in the 52nd minute. Another exquisite set-piece from Joseph found Kisekka, who received it with a deft first touch and hammered it in off the crossbar.

In the 64th minute, the host earned a free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box. Dipanda Dicka stepped up and did just enough to get it up and over the wall, leaving Ubaid CK in goal stranded to restore his side’s advantage.

Punjab added a third in the first minute of stoppage time. With Dicka lurking, Ubaid tried to unsuccessfully dribble past him. Dicka snatched the ball from his feet and with the keeper caught in no man’s land, scored his second of the game to seal the win.

The result sees Punjab remain in second place with 14 points, while Gokulam stays fifth with 10 points.

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