I-League: Gokulam's win over Minerva further widens the title race

This result has once again opened up the title race with third-placed East Bengal back in the reckoning.

Gokulam Kerala vs Minerva Punjab Henry Kisekka

Gokulam Kerala players celebrate Henry Kisekka's goal against Minerva Punjab.   -  I-League @Twitter

Giant-killers Gokulam Kerala FC continued its winning run as it notched up a stunning 1-0 victory over frontrunners Minerva Punjab in its own backyard, as the I-League title race took another interesting turn on Tuesday.

It was a solitary 75-th minute strike from Henry Kisekka that secured full three points from Binu George’s men at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium.

Gokulam hit the cross bar thrice before getting its hard-earned goal in away conditions. With this win Gokulam Kerala has now astonishingly beaten Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab in back to back games.

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Minerva Punjab made four tactical changes in its squad from its previous encounter against East Bengal as Amandeep, Shouvik, Bazie and Rakshit made way for debutant left back Akashdeep, left winger Akash Sangwan, defensive midfielder Randeep and Nepal international goalkeeper Kiran.

Gokulam Kerala was also forced to make as many changes to its squad due to suspension and injury issues. Clearly, the tactical changes made by Minerva Punjab didn’t pay off and Gokulam scored the winner with the help of a bicycle kick by Henry Kisekka.

Gokulam showed its attacking edge from the very first minute itself as the trio of Kivi, Henry and Salam made life difficult for Minerva defenders. William tried his luck in 15th minute to give the home side an early lead, but his powerful shot was blocked.

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Minerva’s gameplay was sloppy in first half due to the fact that it couldn’t keep the ball in midfield. The combination of Randeep, Kassim and William wasn’t working too well although Minerva attacked really well near the 35th minute mark, but couldn’t tickle the scoreboard.

Randeep, who was on yellow card, was taken off in the 40th minute and first team regular Amandeep took his place in defensive midfield. There were a total of four bookings which indicates the general play of first half was pretty rough The first half ended with both the teams failing to convert their chances.

Minerva tried to control the game from the start of second half, but constant injuries to Gokulam players disrupted its play. The injury break in game helped Gokulam to organize themself well as its vicious attacks kept Minerva defence on its back foot.

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Finally, the moment of the match came when a short cross by Lakra was taken first time by Henry. The ball hit the crossbar and fell straight to Henry again who scored with a sensational bicycle kick to silence the home crowd.

Minerva then went all out attack in the final few minutes of the game in order to find an equaliser, but both William and goalkeeper Kiran missed the goal post by a whisker in the 89th and 95th minute respectively.

There wasn’t enough time for any more attack and the referee blew the final whistle. With this win Gokulam rose to sixth in the table, while Minerva Punjab was still at second position behind Neroca FC.