IMPHAL: It’s a battle between third and fifth in the Hero I-League as TRAU FC take on Gokulam Kerala FC at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

With just three matches to go and the difference with table-toppers RoundGlass Punjab already into double figures, Gokulam Kerala’s dreams of winning the Hero I-League title three times in a row are over.

However, coach Anthony Andrew is just looking to end on a high. “The atmosphere in the dressing room is good as we have picked up six points in the last two matches. So we just want to win these last three matches and finish on a good note,” he said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

“It’s TRAU’s home game and they lost the last match, so I’m sure they’ll come hard at us,” he added.

They have never played badly in this season of the I-League but dropped points at crucial junctures against lowly-placed teams like Mumbai Kenkre and Mohammedan Sporting. That has hurt their cause. One of the main reasons behind that has been their tendency to waste scoring opportunities. Sergio Mendigutxia has not been as accurate as he would like to be. Nor have been Eldar Moldozhunusov or Indian forwards VS Sreekuttan, Rahul Raju et al. However, since losing to Mohammedan Sporting in Kolkata on January 12, Gokulam have won two matches on the trot, scoring six goals. Both Mendi and Raju scored in the last match against Aizawl FC. That should give them some confidence against TRAU.

When these two teams first met this season, TRAU had won 2-1 in a hard-fought match. All the goals had come in the second half. With a shrewd coach like Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh at the helm, TRAU could once again prove a tough nut to crack. TRAU do not have much to gain from the remaining matches. But the grit and exuberance of players like Manash Protim Gogoi, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sagolsem Bikash Singh, Salam Johnson Singh hardly need an occasion to shine. With the services of foreigners like Komron Tursunov and Fernandinho, TRAU can still make life difficult for Gokulam.

TRAU coach Nandakumar Singh said, “I’m satisfied with how the boys have responded. I hope they’ll once again give hundred per cent tomorrow.”

The match will be telecast live on Eurosport, DD Sports and Discovery Plus OTT platform from 7 pm.


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