Gokulam Kerala FC and Mohun Bagan played out an engaging 1-1 stalemate in the I-League at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikide on Thursday, March 8.
First-half goals from Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisekka resulted in both teams sharing the spoils in a well-fought ninety minutes of football.
Both sides made just one change coming into the crucial fixture. Bino George swapped his goalkeepers as Bilal Khan made way for Nikhil Bernard.
Shankarlal Chakrabarty preferred Rana Gharami in place of Kinshuk Debnath as Mohun Bagan sought to overcome an in-form Gokulam Kerala FC side at their own turf.
Mohun Bagan were the aggressors in the early minutes of the game as Yuta Kinowaki and Cameron Watson picked out passes with ease in the attacking third. The Kolkata-based club showed the hunger to take an early lead.
Nikhil Kadam’s pacy run and cross from the right flank missed Akram Moghrabi’s head by inches inside the box in the ninth minute. The right winger threatened again three minutes later when his powerful shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection before grazing the bar on its way out.
Mohun Bagan’s early dominance paid dividends before the half-hour mark. In the 26th minute, Cameron Watson’s thunderous strike from the edge of the box came off the underside of the crossbar into the path of Dipanda Dicka. The striker pounced on the loose ball and headed it into the goal to break the deadlock.
Gokulam Kerala FC had their chances as they searched for an equaliser and an unfortunate slip by Rana Gharami allowed the home side to get back into the game at the stroke of half-time. Irshad pounced on a long ball from the deep and slipped Henry Kisekka into the box and the in-form forward slotted the ball into the net.
The home side had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the match at the hour-mark. Arjun Jayaraj surged into the box before sending his shot at the goal. The effort took a deflection and fell to Rashid inside the box. The Mohun Bagan defenders panicked and crowded the midfielder, forcing him to backheel a pass back towards Jayaraj whose second try at goal was kept out by Shilton Paul who produced a low diving save to his left.
Mohun Bagan missed chances as the game progressed towards 90th minute. Dipanda’s outstretched feet failed to connect with the ball as Moghrabi flicked on a Nikhil Kadam long ball. Arijit Bagui’s dangerous cross from the right met an unmarked Dipanda at the far post but the Mohun Bagan forward could not control his header to direct it goalwards.
The match ended with the final score at 1-1 as Mohun Bagan ended the league in third position on the table with 31 points as a result of a better head to head record against East Bengal who had the same points as a result of a draw against runners-up NEROCA FC.