Gokulam Kerala came out 1-0 victors against Rajasthan United in a well-contested Hero I-League encounter at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri on Monday (December 12, 2022).
An early second-half goal from Sreekuttan VS helped the defending champions win their second game in a row, thus also maintaining a perfect home record.
In an opening half which ended goalless, it was Rajasthan United who received the first chance of the game in the seventh minute when Bektur Amangeldiev fired a low shot on goal but the Gokulam Kerala custodian Shibinraj Kunniyil dived to his right to keep the Kyrgyz’s effort out of the net.
The away side dominated proceedings in the opening quarter of the game, however, the hosts soon settled into the game and went close in the 27th minute. Dodi Ndo found Vikas Saini at the far post with his corner kick but the defender couldn’t keep his header on target.
Six minutes from halftime, Gokulam midfielder Farshad Noor tried an effort from the edge of the penalty area, which landed straight at goalkeeper Vishal Joon. Catching the home team off-guard, Rajasthan launched a counter-attack with Hardik Bhatt playing Lalremsanga Fanai on the right wing, who continued his run into the box, only to hit the side netting.
The half ended with Gokulam’s Auguste Somlaga attempting an acrobatic finish from a corner kick but the Cameroonian’s effort fell into the safe hands of Joon in the Rajasthan goal.
Gokulam Kerala began the second half on a strong note, taking the lead in the 51st minute, thanks to a display of individual brilliance from Sreekuttan VS. The winger made a run on the left wing before cutting inside, beating full-back Hardik Bhatt with his skilful dribbling before launching a ferocious strike onto the roof of the net.
Rajasthan United skipper Martín Chaves led the charge as the visitors went forward in search of an equaliser. On the other end, Gokulam substitute Noufal PN proved to be a menace for the Rajasthan defence as the forward helped the home team begin multiple counterattacks.
On one such occasion, a Martin Chaves freekick was quickly cleared away by the Gokulam defence before Noufal fed the ball to Shijin Thadhayouse on the right wing. It became a four-against-one situation with Sreekuttan and Ndo joining the offense but the sole defender William Pauliankhum managed to clear the cross from Shijin.
Rajasthan United kept on attacking but couldn’t create any clear goalscoring chances. Defender Aidar Mambetaliev got close in the 86th minute as the Kyrgyz took a free kick from almost 30 yards out but his effort went whiskers away from the top corner. In the final minutes, the Gokulam defence stood firm and the Malabarians took the three points home.
Gokulam Kerala now have 14 points from seven matches as the defending champions rise to second place, while Rajasthan United remain in fifth place with 11 points from their seven matches.