Gokulam Kerala makes history, clinches I League title

Gokulam Kerala completed a sensational comeback win to earn a 4-1 victory over TRAU FC and become the first club from Kerala to win the I League title.

Gokulam Kerala FC

Gokulam Kerala FC players celebrate winning the I League title on Saturday.   -  Special Arrangement

Gokulam Kerala FC is the new I-League champion. The Kozhikode-based team came up with a fine performance in the second half by bagging four goals to overwhelm challenger Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC of Imphal 4-1, in the final round match of the championship leg at the Kishore Bharati Stadium on Saturday.

Former champion Churchill Brothers also won its final round match against RoundGlass Punjab FC 3-2, at the Salt Lake Stadium to form a two-way tie on 29 points with Gokulam Kerala at the top of the standings. But the Malabarians edged past the Red Machines by virtue of a better head-to-head record to reach the top of the podium and became the first team from Kerala to win the title.

Highlights| Gokulam Kerala trounces TRAU 4-1 to lift I League title

TRAU FC took the third spot with 26 points while RoundGlass Punjab (22), Real Kashmir (21) and Mohammedan Sporting of Kolkata (20) completed the standings in the championship leg.

Gokulam Kerala struggled to convert its chances in the opening half. TRAU made better use of the opportunities and found the lead in the 23rd minute when Bidyashagar Singh finished with a nice solo effort.

Gokulam Kerala was a transformed side after the break and found the equaliser late in the 69th minute when Afghanistan midfielder Sharif Mohammad used the Panenka technique to send his freekick to the back of the TRAU FC net with a nice chip. The equaliser inspired the Malabarians to go for the kill and youngster Emil Benny fetched the lead with a nice effort in the 74th minute.

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Taking the cue from his young colleague, Ghanaian forward Dennis Antwi made it 3-1 in the 77th minute and the side was subsequently reduced to 10 men in added time when midfielder Vincy Barretto was ejected after receiving the second yellow card of the match.

However, it made little impact to Gokulam Kerala's chances as substitute Muhammad Rashid completed the scoring process in the final minute of the added time (90+6) to seal a phenomenal victory.

I-League Individual Awards: 

Hero of the league (Rs. 5 lakh) – Bidyashagar Singh (TRAU FC) 

Highest goal scorer (Rs 2.5 lakh) – Bidyashagar Singh (TRAU FC) 

Best goalkeeper (Rs. 2.5 lakh) – Kiran Limbu (RoundGlass Punjab FC) 

Jarnail Singh Award for best defender (Rs. 2.5 lakhs) – Hamza Kheir (Churchill Brothers) 

Best midfielder (Rs. 2.5 lakhs) – Phalguni Singh (TRAU FC)  

Best emerging player (U-22) (Rs. 2.5 lakhs) – Emil Benny (Gokulam Kerala FC) 

Syed Abdul Rahim Award for best coach – Nandakumar Singh (TRAU FC)