Shillong, Mar 27: Gokulam Kerala were crowned champions of the I-League 2020-21 in spectacular fashion today in Kolkata after the Vincenzo Annese-coached side came from a goal down to score four times in the second half to register a 4-1 win over TRAU of Manipur.
Bidyashagar Singh’s first-half strike did little to stop the Gokulam juggernaut as strikes by Sharif Mohamed, Emil Benny, Dennis Antwi, and Mohammad Rashid aided Gokulam in their quest for silverware. With Churchill Brothers winning 3-2 against Punjab FC, Gokulam shared points (29) with the Goan side but were crowned champions courtesy of a better head-to-head record.
A revelation for the I-League, Bidyashagar opened the scoring for Nandakumar Singh’s side when he produced a stellar finish from outside of the box in the 23rd minute to hand TRAU the lead. Gokulam tried to pull a goal back before the break, but half chances were missed by Philip Adjah and Dennis Antwi with the half-time scoreline reading 1-0 in TRAU’s favor.
Chanso Horam had a golden opportunity to hand TRAU their second of the match in the 50th minute but his chip shot went inches over the bar, following a well-worked classic counter-attacking move.
Sharif Mohamed’s free-kick in the 69th minute from the edge of the box grabbed the equaliser for the Kerala side. The comeback was complete in the 74th minute when Emil Benny tussled past his marker and slotted home through Amrit Gope’s legs to hand Gokulam the lead.
Three minutes later, Dennis Antwi made it 3-1. Mohammed Rashid added more gloss to the scoreline with the last kick of the game as the full-time scoreline read 4-1.
In the other match of the day, Churchill proved too hot for Punjab FC as they won 3-2.
The Goan club surged into the lead in the 9th minute when Clayvin Zuniga was brought down inside the box, with Slovenian striker Luka Majcen converting from the spot.
Churchill doubled their lead in the 25th minute with Zuniga putting the ball home. Zuniga then headed home the third from a cross by Lamgoulen Gou.
Facing an uphill task, Punjab FC managed to pull one back in the 65th minute when Joseba Beitia finished from just outside the box. Four minutes later Punjab further reduced the margin with a Papa Diawara tap-in.
Meanwhile, the winners of the I-League will get receive Rs 1 crore, while the second, third and fourth-placed teams will get Rs 60 lakh, Rs 40 lakh, and Rs 25 lakh respectively.
Highest Goal Scorer: Bidyashagar Singh of TRAU (Rs 2.5 lakh) with 12 goals
Best Goalkeeper: Kiran Limbu of Punjab FC (Rs 2.5 lakh)
Jarnail Singh Award for Best Defender Hamza Kheir of Churchill Brothers (Rs 2.5 lakh)
Best Midfielder: Phalguni Singh of TRAU (Rs 2.5 lakh)
Best Emerging Player (U-22): Emil Benny of Gokulam Kerala (Rs 2.5 lakh)
Syed Abdul Rahim Award for Best Coach – Nandakumar Singh of TRAU
Hero of the League: Bidyashagar Singh of TRAU (Rs 5 lakh)
(Photo: I-League media)