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

Gokulam Kerala becomes the first club from Kerala to win the I-League title as it defeated TRAU 4-1.

Gokulam Kerala FC players celebrate during their 4-1 triumph over TRAU FC in The I-League on Saturday.

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Welcome to Sportstar's I League highlights/live blog of the Gokulam Kerala FC vs TRAU FC clash being played at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.

History has been made today as Gokulam Kerala secures a stunning comeback win to life its maiden I-League title. TRAU went ahead through Bidyashagar Singh's 24th minute goal, but Gokulam struck  back in fine fashion with three goals in eight minutes.

MATCH REPORT| Gokulam Kerala makes history, lifts I League title

Sharif Mukhammad bagged the equaliser with a sensational free-kick and Emil Benny put the Malabarians ahead four minutes later. Dennis Antwi netted Gokulam's third goal three minutes later and Muhammed Rashid added a fourth off the last play of the game to secure a massive 4-1 win.

Gokulam Kerala FC 4 - 1 TRAU

Churchill Brothers 3 - 2 Roundglass Punjab FC

FULL-TIME: GOKULAM KERALA BEATS TRAU FC 4-1 TO BECOME THE FIRST CLUB FROM KERALA TO WIN THE I-LEAGUE!

90+8' GOAAAAAAAL! Rashid scores at the very end to power Gokulam to an emphatic 4-1 triumph.

90+6' Late change for Gokulam: Deepak Devrani has been substituted by Alex Saji.

90+3' Barretto has been sent off! He makes a rather needless tackle and has been shown a second yellow card. Gokulam will play the final three minutes with 10 men.

90' The fourth official has signalled for six minutes to be added on.

89' Change for Gokulam: Goal-scorer Benny is replaced by Thahir Zaman.

86' Benny has a go at goal from distance, but his shot floats above the crossbar.

85' Five minutes to go, ladies and gents! Can Gokulam hold on to its two goal lead or will we see a late comeback from TRAU?

83' Changes for TRAU: Bidyashagar has been replaced by Vicky Meitei, Mayosing Khongreiwa comes on for Bruno.

81' What a chance for TRAU! Phalguni has a chance to reduce the deficit as he bombs into the box and has a crack at goal, but it takes a deflection. The ball lands for Bidyashagar, who fails to get the desired connection.

80' What a thrilling few minutes of football we have had! Gokulam has made a mind-blowing comeback with three goals in quick succession to soar ahead. This surely will be enough to steer the side to the I-League title!

78' Barretto and Benny pick up yellow cards on either side of that goal.

77' MAKE THAT 3-1! Dennis scores Gokulam's third goal in eight minutes to propel the side to a two-goal lead! He puts on a pair of sunglasses to celebrate in style. 

75' Change for TRAU: Milan Singh comes on for Krishnananda.

75' BENNY GIVES GOKULAM THE LEAD! Benny makes a surging run down the right, out muscles his marker and slots its between the goal keeper's legs to put his side ahead. What a turnaround!

UPDATE: Roundglass Punjab FC has scored two goals in as many minutes against Churchill Brothers!

69' GOAAAAAAAAAAL! Sharif scores a peach of a free-kick to bring Gokulam Kerala back into this game. Third time lucky for Sharif as he scores off his third free-kick of the evening. He got the right amount of flight and curled it above the wall and into the top corner to equalise for Gokulam.

67' Goaaaaaaal...disallowed. Dennis' groundec ross from the byline is turned in by a TRAU defender, but the assistant referee rules it out as the ball had rolled over the line before the cross.

66' Benny misses a sitter! A stunning through ball sees him through on goal with just the 'keeper to beat, but he skies his attempt.

65' Straight into Ubaid's gloves! TRAU wins a free-kick and Bruno takes it, but ends up striking it straight at the 'kepeer. The Brazilian ought to have done better there.

62' Chance of the evening for Gokulam! Barretto floats in a terrific cross and Denis connects well, but his header narrowly whizzes off target.

60' The TRAU defence is fighting tooth and nail to keep the Gokulam attack at bay! Can the back-line hold fort for another 30 minutes, or will Gokulam manage to break through?

55' TRAU FC will win its first I-League if it can hold on to, or increase its lead over Gokulam Kerala. However, if it were to draw, then Churchill, which leads Punjab FC 3-0, will take home the title.

 

53' Another fantastic chance for TRAU! Joseph whips in a teasing cross from the right that finds Krishnananda, but he skies it attempt from five yards away. Gokulam launch into a quick attack on the other end and the TRAU defence just about manages to clear the danger. End to end action here!

51' Chance goes begging for TRAU! A lovely lob sees Horam through on goal with just the 'keeper to beat. The youngster tries to dink it beyond the 'keeper but fails to keep it on target.

50' Gokulam wins a free-kick from a promising position and Sharif is the one to take it. The Afghani midfielder strikes it well, beats the well, but blasts it woefully wide of the target.

48' It's Dennis vs Helder on the left and the referee rules in the TRAU defender's favour. Dennis and Helder get into a little shoving contest and the referee intervenes to cool things down.

47' Second change for Gokulam: Adjah, who suffered an injury in the first half, has been taken off for Ronald Singh.

46' Chance within 10 seconds of kick off! Benny fires a ferocious stike at goal and forces the 'keeper to make a top save.

46' KICK OFF! And the second half gets underway.

Gokulam had greater ball possession and more shots, but it is TRAU that has the advantage at the end of the first 45. Gokulam got off to a fine start and presssed deep into the TRAu half, but Bidyashagar's strike turned thing around. The goal spurred life into TRAU and the side put up a resilient defensive display to deny the Gokulam forwards.

HALF -TIME: TRAU FC leads Gokulam Kerala 1-0, courtesy of Bidyashagar Singh's 24th minute strike.

45+2' Krishnanada Singh makes a crunching tackle on Rashid and becomes the second player to be booked.

UPDATE: Zuniga has scored his second goal of the evening to hand Churchill Brothers a 3-0 lead against Punjab FC.

45' Three minutes of added time to be played.

43' We finally have the first corner of the game! Gokulam Kerala, though, unable to create a chance from the set-piece opportunity.

40' Early change for Gokulam: Lalromawia is replaced by Muhammed Rashid. 

37' Bidyashagar with a first-time left-footed half volley and it sails straight into the goalkeeper's gloves. TRAU's attacking movement has looked sharp and incisive over the last few minutes.

35' Benny beats his marker and lins up to take a shot but has the ball stolen from his feet. Gokulam will bank on the attacking trio of Benny, Dennis and Adjah to find a way back into this game.

STAT: Bidyashagar has the chance to become the first Indian to top the I-League goal-scoring chart since Sunil Chhetri did so in 2014.

30' Off we head into the water break.

28' Gokulam in search of a quick equaliser but can't find a way past the spirited TRAU defence.

UPDATE: Churchill has bagged its second goal against Punjab FC!  Clayvin Zuniga gets on the scoresheet.

25' That goal will serve as a phenomenal boost for TRAU. The Red Pythons appeared a little shaky in the beginning but have swiftly taken control of the game.

23' GOAAAAAAAAAL! Bidyashagar Singh scores a beauty from the edge of the box to propel TRAU into the lead. The youngster receives the ball on his left, works it to his right and fires a a stunning drive into the far corner Bidyashagar is back to the top of the goal-scorers list!

21' Promising stuff from Benny. He dribbles past two defenders and cuts into the right before letting one rip....but it's straight at the 'keeper.

20' TRAU slowly finding their feet here. The side from Manipur seems to be settling into some sort of a rhythm and ppassing the ball around better.

16' Chances at either end of the pitch but neither manages to test the 'keepers.

15' Majcen's goal against Punjab FC makes him the leading goal-scorer now, taking him past Bidyashagar. 

13' Chance! Denis drills a low cross from the right for Adjah in the box, but Helder swoops in just in time to clear the danger. Bidyashagar has a go at goal at the other end but can't find the target.

10' Gokulam has dominated the proceedings so far. Dennis and Adjah have looked lethal up front, keeping the TRAU defence under tremendous pressure. TRAU is yet to register a shot.

UPDATE: Churchill Brothers has scored! Luka Majcen has scored from the spot.

 

9' Dennis beats the offside trap and gets into a 1v1 position with the 'keeper, but the ref blows the whistle as the Ghanaian had fouled a defender in the process.

8' Sharif steps up to take the free-kick but it's rather poor. He goes for power but can't beat the wall.

6' Dennis weaves his way past two men and makes a surging run into the final third, but is taken out by Helder. Gokulam wins a free-kick and Helder becomes the first player to be booked.

5' Lalromawia floats in a fine cross and the 'keeper gloves it away.

2' An early injury here as Helder catches Adjah in the face with a stray elbow. Ghanaian striker Adjah has struck five goals for Gokulam this season.

1' Barreto with a cross from the right...and it sails out for a free-kick.

1' KICK OFF! Gokulam in green and white, while TRAU dons an all-red kit.

As it stands, Gokulam Kerala will win the I-League if it beats TRAU. Similarly, TRAU will also bag its maiden I-League title if it can get past Gokulam Kerala today.  Churchill Brothers can seal its third title if it defeats Punjab FC and Gokulam and TRAU play out a draw.

MATCH PREVIEW:

Gokulam Kerala will take on Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) in the final matchday as both sides aim for their maiden I-League title. The game is set for a 5 PM IST kickoff at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, West Bengal on Saturday.

After 14 rounds of games, three teams will be battling for the title -- Gokulam Kerala, Churchill Brothers, and TRAU. All three sides have 26 points and are only differentiated by their head-to-head results. The equation is simple for Gokulam Kerala. Vincenzo Annese’s side needs to beat TRAU, and it will secure its first-ever I-League title as the Malabrians lead second-placed Churchill Brothers on head-to-head record (2-0 loss, 3-2 win vs Churchill). It could also secure the championship with a draw if Churchill loses its game to RoundGlass Punjab.

READ | Three teams in running for I-League crown, three front runners for top scorer

However, Vincenzo Annese would rather prefer his team finish the job by beating TRAU. Speaking at the pre-match press conference, the GKFC head coach said, “This is a final for us, and we need to win this game. We are too excited, we cannot relax. The mood is fine, but we have just one thing on our mind -- we need to win this game.”

“All our hard work, strengths, training sessions, formation -- has led us here. Now, we have to finalise a few things. We have worked very hard to be here. This is a final game, many things can go wrong. We need to limit things we cannot control. We need to focus completely on the game and keep preparing ourselves continuously.”

“We beat TRAU seven games ago. It will be totally different as they will have Helder Lobato back in defense. They have quality in counterattacks. They are organized in defense, and quick in front of goal. Their two excellent midfielders- Phalguni and Kishan Singh who are brilliant passers of the ball and the team can run for the whole 90 minutes,” he adds about his opponents.

Midfielder Mohammed Rashid said, ”It is a dream come true for all players to be fighting for the Hero I-League title. All of us are focused, well-rested and prepared. We are positive that we will be taking the trophy home at the end of tomorrow.”

Like Gokulam, TRAU faces a similar equation if it wants to lift the I-League. If Nandakumar’s boys are able to beat Gokulam, they are likely to lift the trophy even if Churchill is able to beat RoundGlass Punjab in the other game. The Imphal-based club drew both its games with Churchill Brothers, but has a superior overall goal difference which would hand it the title.

However, it will not be an easy task for the Red Pythons as the Malabrians hold the edge over them. Emil Benny’s strike in the first half coupled with Sharif Mohammad’s and Zodingliana Ralte’s second-half strikes helped Gokulam to a 3-1 win over TRAU back when the two sides clashed in match week 8.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, head coach Nandakumar said, “We have been preparing well and we are in a very good mindset before the game. I have also said earlier that with the talent of the players, we would surprise many in the tournament. Since the start, our aim was to be in the top-six. Being in the title race is a bonus.”

“After many positive results, I have immense confidence in my team. I cannot predict the result, but I can say my team is looking forward to playing this last game -- a title-deciding match for us. I am sure they will give their 100 per cent for the I-League title. Whatever the result, I will be a very happy man.”

“Gokulam are one of the strongest teams. Their strike force is too good and composed in front of the goal. They have a good energetic coach leading a good set of players. They have many players who play in different positions, and it will be difficult to adapt to them. It will be a tough game against strong opposition,” Nandakumar added.

Goalkeeper Amrit Gope has put up some defying performances in goal for TRAU. He said, “We all are motivated after the last game and we have been looking forward to the game against Gokulam Kerala. We know we need to win this game, which will give us the championship. I believe the whole team is motivated and fired up for a win.”