Gokulam Kerala FC stormed into the semifinals of the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup, defeating I-League reigning champions Chennai City, 2-0, in the Group ‘B’ encounter at MA Aziz Stadium here on Saturday.
Henry Kisekka’s and Lalromawia’s first half strikes helped Malabarians to trounce the Chennai club in a dominant manner and become the first club from Kerala to enter the semifinals of an AFC-recognized international tournament.
Gokulam Kerala FC were without Marcus Joseph in the first half of the match as the Trinidadian and Tobago forward had returned only two days before from national duty. But it was not a matter of concern for the Malabarians as they dominated from the opening minutes itself.
Henry Kisekka, who had been in a tremendous form in the tournament, created the first chance as he, after a couple of exchanges in the box, went for glory but his thundering shot was blocked by the Chennai City FC goalie.
But that save was a short respite for the I League champions. Nathaniel Garcia, who is known for his set-pieces, send in a looping free-kick to Henry. Henry’s first shot on goal was blocked by the goalie but he managed to collect the rebound and pass it to Lalromawia, who had to just tap in to put Malabarians up front.
The second goal also came from Nathaniel’s free-kick as he found Henry, after a beautiful dummy by Irshad, and the Ugandan made no mistakes to give a two-lead cushion within 15 minutes of the match. This was his third goal from three matches.
Gokulam dominated most of the half and whenever they lost possession, they were able to regain the ball with high pressing that tormented Chennai defenders throughout the match. Henry had a couple more chances in the first half but his shots were either blocked or punched away by the Chennai goalie.
In the second half, Gokulam’s captain Marcus Joseph was subbed in for goal scorer Lalromawia. Marcus and Henry dominated the proceedings as they created more chances. Marcus saw two of his well-taken shots stopped by the goalie while wing-back Sebastian missed a sitter.
Though Chennai City had more possession in the closing minutes, GKFC saw off their late challenges and ensured the clean sheet and progress to the semifinal in style.