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Kozhikode, October 27, 2018: In front of a noisy 28,400 strong home crowd, Gokulam Kerala FC returned with honours in their opening 12th Hero I-League fixture against Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan at Kozhikode’s EMS Corporation stadium on Saturday (October 27, 2018).

Lalchhawnkima’s own goal in the second half cancelled out Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka’s header for Bagan in the 41st minute, as match three of the 12th Hero I-League ended 1-1 at full time.

Bino George’s Gokulam Kerala FC began the match with dependable Ghanaian Daniel Addo leading the back four and the talented Arjun Jayaraj, Brazilian Felipe Castro and Ugandan Mudde Musa part of a three-man midfield. The forward line was led by Grenadian international Antonio German. Shibinraj started in the Gokulam goal.

Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty went in with the Cameroonian-Ugandan pair of Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisekka upfront with Egyptian Omar El Hussieny playing in the hole behind them. Youngster Pintu Mahata and Kerala’s PM Britto were to make the runs from the wings with another youngster Sourav Das in centre of midfield. The back line was led by Nigerian Eze Kingsley with the talented Arijit Bagui alongside. Lalramchulova as right back and Abhishek Ambekar as left back also returned good efforts. Sankar Roy was preferred in the Bagan goal.

Although Gokulam began with a flurry of attacks with Mudde Mussa creating an opening early Bagan were the stronger outfit in the first quarter of an hour with the first attempt coming from Egyptian Husseiney and Ugandan Kisekka. Hussieny latched on to a loose ball outside the Gokulam box and glided inside for his right-footed toe-poke to beat Shibinraj and ricocheted off the near post even as Kisekka let loose a long ranger from a favourable position sail over.

In the 18th minute, Pintu Mahata, who had a good first half in the left-wing, missed a sitter from Dicka’s wonderful ball inside the box. His awkward connection with his left-foot with the goalkeeper and an empty net at his mercy denied Bagan a deserving lead. The selfless Dicka then found Kisekka with a delectable lob over the Gokulam defence and the Ugandan’s lob in return, went over Shibinraj’s reach and was cleared from the goal-line by a tireless Abhishek Das in the Gokulam defence.

Bagan eventually, took the lead in the 41st minute, when Arijit Bagui floated a free-kick inside the box, which met with Kisekka perfectly and his angled-header beat Shibinraj at the far post to hand the away side the lead.

Then there was a drama at both ends in the 42nd minute. First, Dipanda Dicka unleashed a brilliant run inside the box taking out two defenders and his well-placed shot brought about a great save from Shibinraj but landed at the feet of an onrushing Kisekka who failed to control his effort.

Then English born Antonio German, on the counter, found himself one to one with the goalkeeper, but with the pressure from an onrushing defender, he shot straight from just outside the box, into the diving clutches of Roy.

Gokulam began the second half with a sense of urgency and in particular, the introduction of Rajesh in place of under-22 Gani Nigam, saw the hosts turn the possession and dominance tables completely. Although brilliant Rajesh, industrious German, honest Musa and eventual Hero of the Match Arjun Jayaraj were creating opportunities, clear chances were coming not in numbers and Bagan defence were seemed to be in control.

Gokulam were eventually rewarded for their enterprise when in a comedy of errors inside the box earned them the equaliser. Roy’s weak punch to clear a cross found Arjun Jayaraj heading towards goal. In the process, Kinsley cleared it but it struck Kim Kima on the rebound and went in to send the 28 thousand-odd crowd into a delirium.

Rajesh then had two gilt-edged chances. First, in the 73rd minute when his powerful curling shot from the top of the box was tipped over by Roy to come off the bar and then again when his shot from close was saved by the Bagan goalie, who otherwise had a good day in office.

Mohun Bagan’s only clear chance of the half came in injury time when Dicka’s header in the 92nd minute went wide.

Coach Shankarlal rang in the changes and brought in William Lalnunfella, veteran Mehtab Hussain and even rested Hnery Kisekka in the end for the last throw of the dice with Azharuddin Mallick, but to no avail.

Sunday also has a double-header and will see defending champions Minerva Punjab FC taking on Goa’s Churchill Brothers at home in the 2 PM kick-off while the first Northeast derby featuring Aizawl FC and their hosts Shillong follows at 5 PM.

After two days, Chennai City find themselves leading the table on goal difference ahead of Quess East Bengal, both sides having logged wins in their opening games.

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