Gokulam Kerala’s Spanish forward Sergio Mendigutxia needed a gentle tap into the open goal in third minute of stoppage time to salvage a point for the home team. RoundGlass Punjab goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu had spilled the cross from left and was on the ground. But Mendi volleyed it way over the bar. That sums up his and his team’s day as they suffered their second home defeat in the Hero I-League at EMS Corporation Stadium here on Thursday.
This 2-1 win would mean a lot to RoundGlass Punjab as they are now level with Sreenidi Deccan atop the Hero I-League table in terms of points. There was not much to choose between the two teams in this hard-fought, at times ill-tempered, match. In the end, the penetrative powers of Hero of the Match Luka Majcen won it for the visitors. He was at the centre of Punjab’s efforts right from the 21st minute, when his header off Brandon Vanlalremdika’s cross from the right went just over the crossbar.
Gokulam felt hard done four minutes later, when their appeal for handball inside the Punjab box, and therefore a penalty, was turned down by referee Lalit Singh Rawat. They were again livid in the 29th minute as Sreekuttan ran into an open Punjab box, receiving a precise lob from Omar Ramos. Defender Mohammed Salah recovered late to come from behind and Gokulam players believed he pushed Sreekuttan, but no penalty was given. The fouls and yellow cards started flowing soon after.
One of the resultant free-kicks by Ashis Pradhan from the midfield found Majcen unmarked in the box as Gokulam defenders thought he was offside. Pawan Kumar tried to intervene at the last moment, only to end up scoring an own goal.
Mendigutxia got a fantastic chance to equalise early in the second half off a great cross from the right by Vikas Saini. He managed to get between the two central defenders, but his volley was way off the mark.
But Majcen is not somebody to squander opportunities. He made it 2-0 in the 70th minute. Punjab were raiding the Gokulam defence for quite some time and had got the second corner in two minutes. Juan Mera floated it in from the left towards Khaiminthang Lhungdim at the far post. Limbu barely kept it out, but Luka tapped in the rebound.
Substitutes rekindled Gokulam’s hopes just four minutes later. Farshad Noor was in the right place at the right time to tap in Sourav’s perfect cross from the right with his left foot.
Even though Gokulam could not score again, they mounted attack after attack on Punjab and the players started losing their cool repeatedly. Tackles got nastier and Noor was booked in the 77th minute.
This defeat means Francesc Bonet’s dream of winning the Hero I-League title for Gokulam goes farther away. They are now ten points behind Sreenidi Deccan and RoundGlass Punjab who occupy the top two positions. This is also the Malabarians’ second consecutive loss.
AIFF Media Release