Gokulam Kerala FC thrashed a hapless Rajasthan United FC 5-0 to extend their unbeaten start to I-League 2023-24 at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode on Thursday, November 9.
The build-up to the game was a study in contrasts, Gokulam Kerala riding a wave of confidence after a routine demolition of NEROCA, and Rajasthan United a picture of dejection with two losses in two and a defence leaking goals. In the opening quarter though, those unfamiliar would’ve struggled to say which was which. Both teams were guilty of lacking composure in the final third, the midfield disjointed and unable to cohesively create meaningful attacks.
The first half chance was created by the visitors, off a counter no less. Ragav Gupta brilliantly switched the play from left to right, the ball landing at the feet of Lalchungnunga Chhangte, and lots of grass for him to run at. The winger did just that, running free into the box and cutting the ball back towards the centre. Unfortunately, his delivery was just behind Richard Gadze, who somehow, commendably, brought it under his control but could do less after he did so.
It was a catalyst for Gokulam Kerala to start playing some football, and soon enough they were doing just that, Rajasthan United reliant on the ability of Sachin Jha to ensure they did not leak goals. The shot-stopper saved a long ranger from Komron Tursonov, blocked a one-on-one against Nili Perdomo and was responsible for bringing all the dangerous crosses within his control. In the end, though, he was only delaying the inevitable.
In the 33rd minute, Nili drifted past a series of Rajasthan United defenders as if they didn’t exist, to drive into the box and cut the ball back towards the penalty spot. It was met perfectly by an onrushing Tursonov, to give the home team a well-deserved lead. RUFC’s best opportunity came soon after, Salam Ranjan illegally hacking down Jefferson de Oliveira’s brilliant run just outside the box. A diving Devansh Dabas saved the ensuing freekick to protect Gokulam Kerala’s lead.
Gokulam Kerala kept the pressure up in the second half, their midfield overrunning Rajasthan United’s defence with speed and finesse. In the 50th minute, Muhammed Saheef drifted past the defence with only Jha to beat in goal. His touch was a bit too heavy, though, allowing the keeper to gather.
Ten minutes later Rajasthan United had a great opportunity of their own, Lalchungnunga blasting high after picking up the ball just outside the box. Gokulam Kerala made them pay for the miss immediately. After a series of corners, Edu Bedia delivered one to the far post, where Alex Sanchez rose high to double their lead. It had been coming, and was deserved but Rajasthan United’s sleeping defence was guilty of the most amateur of errors.
They added a third in the 69th, Justine Emanuel, Sanchez and Sreekuttan VS combining brilliantly, at pace after stealing the ball in midfield, to consolidate the victory. Bedia’s genius aided in the fourth, his pass splitting a brittle defence for Sanchez to score a second. The Spaniard completed his hat trick in the 88th minute, finishing neatly into the far corner after PN Noufal had played him into the box. Jha’s save from Sanchez’s penalty in injury time was the highlight for Rajasthan United on an otherwise unforgettable evening.
Gokulam Kerala meanwhile got two wins in a row and will hope for a third next week when they face TRAU FC. Rajasthan United take on Churchill Brothers next time.