THE HISTORIC FIRST national level Kerala Derby clash between Kerala Blasters and Gokulam Kerala FC has gone the Malabarians' way.
In a hard-fought Durand Cup Group C game at the Mohun Bagan Ground, GKFC beat their local rivals 4-3 to earn another landmark feather to their cap.
The clubs have been on a collision course with each other ever since GKFC joined the I-League in 2017. But even though they have faced each other with mostly reserve players at Kerala Premier League in men's football at Kerala Women's League in women's football, their first teams had never faced off in a national level competition until today.
It was the first time two clubs from Kerala faced each other with their first teams in a major competition since 2011 when Malabar United played Josco FC in the 2nd Division League.
Although KBFC, as the top division club, came in as favourites to win this Derby, they received an early rude awakening when Aminou Bouba headed a corner kick into the net. Although Justine Emmmanuel got them level soon, the early-season shakiness of KBFC's defence was exposed and Srekuttan Santosh capitalised on it to put GKFC back ahead.
To make matters worse, just before half time, Naocha Singh's own goal made the score 3-1 in GKFC's favour. And early in the second half, Abhijith's world class finish gave the Malabarians a 3 goal cushion.
Finally, KBFC seemed to be jolted awake and went all out to get back in the game, with some success. Prabir Das, a former Mohun Bagan player and lifelong Bagan fan, marked the return to his old home ground with a goal. And Adrian Luna scored the third goal for the Blasters 77 minutes in.
But the late surge proved to be insufficient, with GKFC walking securing a 4-3 victory.
Given the possibility of a long rivalry between these two clubs, this match may well go down as a landmark encounter in both clubs' history and Gokulam Kerala FC will have something of an eternal bragging rights as the winner of the first national level Derby clash between the two.
With 6 points from 2 matches, GKFC are now at the top of the Group C table. But their top spot is not secure yet; since defending champions Bengaluru FC are just getting started with their title defencewith a clash against Indian Air Force on Monday, and how they perform will define who goes into the quarter finals from this group.
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