Shillong, Jan 28: Gokulam Kerala came from two goals to one down to snatch a historic 3-2 victory over Shillong Lajong FC in Kozhikode today.
Abdoulaye Koffi scored his third goal of the season in the 25th minute before man-of-the-match Mahmoud Al Ajmi equalised in the 52nd. Lajong again seized the lead just two minutes later with Oh Juho bagging his first goal. The visitors then appeared to wilt in the heat, however, and Gokulam got themselves back in the contest with Kivi Zhimomi’s 75th minute goal followed by the winner scored by Arjun Jayaraj in the 90th.
It was the first win at home for the Kerala team in seven matches and second consecutive victory for the I-League debutants.
SLFC started with the same lineup from Wednesday’s victorious NEROCA match and it paid off again midway through the first half when a long ball into the Gokulam box was met by Saihou Jagne, who tapped the ball to his left for the oncoming Koffi, who was pretty much allowed to score with the defenders rooted to the spot.
Gokulam had plenty of chances all through the match, but for the first 50 minutes were either off target or had their attempts denied by Lajong’s defence and goalkeeper Nidhin Lal.
The hosts finally managed to penetrate less than 10 minutes into the second half after Al Ajmi curled in a beauty of a free-kick over the wall and into the back of the net.
However, the equaliser possibly allowed in a little complacency and the Reds struck right back two minutes later. A free-kick from Lajong’s half was put in deliciously by captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Juho broke away from the opposition defenders and headed the ball powerfully past the goalkeeper.
Lalmuanpuia tested the Kerala goalie once more later on, but otherwise the visitors appeared to wilt in the heat and Gokulam found countless opportunities to make attacking forays.
Lal denied Emmanuel Chigozie in the 68th minute with a brilliant dive to his left but could do nothing to keep out Zhimomi’s first I-League goal in the 75th minute, which was fired in from just inside the box. This happened to be the 250th goal that Lajong have conceded in the I-League.
It then looked like both sides might be happy to share points, but that obviously did not occur to Jayaraj, who made a lone run from the midfield and slotted the ball for the winner in the last minute of normal time.
After three straight matches on the road, SLFC will return home to take on Mohun Bagan on 3rd February. Gokulam, meanwhile, take on NEROCA in Imphal the following day.
(Photo contributed by Shillong Lajong)