In the second match of the Hero Super Cup qualifiers, Gokulam Kerala FC blnked NorthEast United FC 2-0 to secure their place in the Pre-Quarters of the tournament. Ugandan striker Henry Kisseka scored in either side of halftime to clinch the victory for the Hero I-League debutants.
The combination Kisseka and Mudde Mussa tested the Highlander’s defence early on with Kisseka coming close in the seventh minute. Lalrindika Ralte found the back of the net at the other end but his goal was disallowed for off-side.
Gokulam continued to create havoc while NorthEast tried to hit on the counter through their Brazilian duo of Danilo and Marcio with Fanai Lalrempuia’s making dangerous runs from the right.
After a series of opportunities, the Jayaraj-Kisseka combination struck gold in the 43rd minute. Jayaraj’s through ball from the right was controlled beautifully by Kisseka who put it into the far right side-netting and propel Gokulam into the lead. The first half-ended with Kerala clearly on the upswing.
NEUFC rang in the second half with their first substitution by bringing in Reagan Singh for Nirmal Chetri. The Highlanders began on a promising note with with Narzary playing a key role in two chances, with one of them being muffed up by Danilo. Rowlin Borges, who had a comparatively quite game, missed a chance and was promptly taken off by Grant, who brought in the more attacking Len Doungel in the 66th minute.
Couple of more changes followed as Alajmi was replaced by 23-year old Macedonian forward, Hristijan Denkovski who made his debut for the club and Swedish forward Maic Sema was brought on in place of Narzary. All 3 changes occurring within a span of five minutes.
However, it was Gokulam’s day as Kisseka struck the nail in the Highlander’s coffin. A wonderful through from Salman inside the box on the right to Jayaraj, found him in cutting in and squaring it to the Ugandan who finished it off coolly to double the lead in the 75th minute.
The Highlanders had a chance to make a comeback but Len Doungel and Lopez missed two gilt-edged chances in the 76th and 77th minutes. Len got his flying header straight into the hands of Nikhil Barnard, while Danilo Lopes placed it wide in an on one on one situation.
Bino George indicated signs of shutting shop in the 84th minute, by bringing on Sushanth Mathew in place of Salman. With five minutes added on soon after it was too little for the NorthEast to mount a fight back. A shot on the bar from the Highlanders summing up their night of frustration.
Gokulam Kerala FC now find themselves facing Bengaluru FC in the Pre-Quarters.