An injury-time equaliser by Mohammed Asif gave debutants Inter Kashi a valuable point away from home against two-time champions Gokulam Kerala FC at the EMS Corporation stadium, on Saturday, October 28.
If the pre-match were an indication of the importance of the game — an opener’s mind — then it was safe to say both the Spaniards at the helm were in no mood to play safe.
Right from kick-off though Gokulam took control of proceedings eager almost to establish their pedigree over the debutants across them.
The Malabarians stormed forward in numbers and in the 8th minute got a just reward, Alejandro Lopez tapping in from close range. All the hard work had been done earlier, Sreekuttan VS latching on to a nothing ball from his midfield, turning Sumeet Passi inside out and driving into the box. It was just a matter of precision as he cut it back perfectly for his captain to give them the lead.
Inter Kashi looked ruffled and even their pedigreed players were nervous on the ball and ill-disciplined off it. Gokulam sensed it and pressed harder. In the 17th, Nili Perdomo played Lopeztheough with a sensational through ball. The Spaniard shot wide.
Coaches always ask players to slow the game when they find themselves down and it’s what Kashi started doing, circulating the ball in defence and midfield just to kill Gokulam’s momentum.
It came with a reward and almost a carbon copy of Gokulam’s opener. Mario Barco drove into the right of the box and cut the ball to the centre of the goal. Lalrindikahaving spotted his marker napping rushed to tap it in. Game on.
The teams traded misses, a highlight reel of overhead kicks, diving headers, and long-range hopeful punts.
Gokulam started sharper again in the second half, Edu Bedia’s midfield manipulation was the difference for large periods of the game. And yet a goal would’ve eluded them if not for a moment of magic — or insanity, depending on which coach you were. A long hopeful ball from the left seemed to be falling innocuously enough in the Kashi box albeit towards Noufal. Goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya came off his line when perhaps staying on it would’ve nullified any threat. Having come up he contrived to time his action badly and Noufal brilliantly lobbed it in.
Kashi scarcely looked like equalising and may well have gone home empty-handed — even if their display warranted some praise — if not for a goalkeeping error at the other end. When the fourth official held up eight minutes on the board it just seemed like there would be drama in the game. The last quarter had been marked by rash challenges, reckless defending and hot-headed tussles.
It was Devansh Dabas erring this time, missing a looping cross by Barco to the far post, and seeing the ball fall to an onrushing Asif. The winger tucked it in to give the debutants a point from their first test away from home.