Home side Gokulam Kerala FC notched up a solitary goal victory over former champions Churchill Brothers FC of Goa in a Hero I-League clash, thanks to a first-half Marcus Joseph strike at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Sunday evening.
In a wonderful gesture, the Gokulam management had declared that the proceeds from the game would be donated to the family of former Mohun Bagan and Quess East Bengal player Dhanarajan, who passed away under tragic circumstances last month, and the local crowd responded with an over 25,000 turnout.
Both sides went into the game suffering losses in their previous encounter. While the visitor’s coach Bernardo Tabares rang in four changes, some of them forced, like that of the injury to top striker Willis Plaza, Gokulam’s Spanish coach Santiago Varela brought in Afghan Haroon Amiri and Sebastian in place of Jestin Geroge and Salman, who had started the last game.
The first clear chance of the game came Gokulam’s way in the 18th minute to centre-back Andre Ettienne. Ugandan forward Henry Kisekka then missed the best chance in the first half-hour, catching Churchill keeper Jaffar Mondal well outside his line, but his attempt at lobbing the keeper missed by a whisker.
The hosts broke through in the 38th minute via their talisman Marcus. Amiri got the assist with a wonderful ball into the box piercing the left-side of the Churchill defence. The Trinidadian striker gamely followed through and his rasping drive beat Mondal to bulge the Churchill net. This was his fifth goal of this season’s league and it duly got him another Hero of the Match.
The visitors then suffered another blow when full-back Robert Primus had to be replaced just before the half ended through injury.
Gokulam seemed to have taken their foot off the pedal a little bit in the second half, allowing Churchill to make some inciteful forays, but the finish was clearly missing on the day.
Marcus in the 78th minute also had a chance to double his game tally, but his shot from the top of the box missed the target.
Coach Tabares did bring in Israel Gurung with 10 minutes left on the clock, in an effort to secure a point, but moments later, Churchill’s day was aptly summed up, when centre-back Radanfa Abu Bakr was given marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Gokulam now move up to fourth on the table, winning half of their eight completed games for 13 points, while Churchill will move a spot down to sixth with 10 from seven games.