A dominant performance by Gokulam Kerala FC saw the Malabarians end Churchill Brothers’ eleven-match unbeaten streak as an own goal by Vanlal Duatsanga and a Dennis Antwi brace in the second half led Vincenzo Annese’s men to a 3-0 win over the Red Machines at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in Kalyani on Wednesday.
With this win, Gokulam Kerala FC propel themselves to second in the Hero I-League table, albeit level on points (22) with TRAU, but ahead due to a superior head-to-head record. Gokulam’s win has thrown the I-League title race wide open with the gap between the chasing pack and league leaders Churchill Brothers just down to three points with three matches left to go in the season.
Gokulam Kerala FC wasted no time in formalities in the opening minutes of the match and attacked from the whistle. As early as the 3rd minute, the Malabarians had an opportunity to take the lead when Emil Benny cleverly found Dennis Antwi inside the box. However, after twisting and turning, Antwi’s shot was parried away safely by Shilton Paul.
But the breakthrough came for Gokulam a minute later courtesy of an own goal. Dennis Antwi’s swirling cross for Philip Adjah, waiting inside the box, was met halfway by Vanlal Duatsanga who, unfortunately, in an attempt to clear the ball, poked it into his own net.
Gokulam could have gone two goals ahead in under ten minutes had Dennis Antwi not skyed his shot from a tight angle after a Ronald Singh shot drew an uncanny save by Shilton Paul. The opening barrage of attacks seemed to catch Churchill Brothers off guard as the Red Machines were unable to play their brand of football.
With Gokulam dominating possession, the attacking duo of Luka Majcen and Clayvin Zuniga were often left isolated up front with chances becoming rare. In perhaps the first time of the season, Churchill Brothers looked to be completely outplayed by their opponents.
In the 29th minute, Philip Adjah combined with Dennis Antwi to force Shilton Paul into making a good save. However, the best chance of the first half fell to Dennis Antwi in the 34th minute. After rounding off the defense, Philip Adjah had found Antwi, who only had the goalkeeper to beat. But Antwi failed to make the most of his chance.
Two late chances for Churchill Brothers courtesy of Luka Majcen and Clayvin Zuniga, in the first half, were both saved heroically by goalkeeper Ubaid Chono. The half-time scoreline read 1-0 in favor of the Malabarians.
The Malabarians continued from the first half, in terms of dominating possession and had the lion’s share of the ball in the opening minutes of the second half. Churchill were once again left without answers as the Red Machines were hardly able to play their game, nor were their counter-attacking efforts bearing fruits.
In the 52nd minute, Ronald Singh latched onto a long ball by substitute Tahir Zaman, but before he could make the most out of it inside the area, he was brought down by Suresh Meitei. The referee pointed to the spot and Denis Antwi’s thunderous effort from the penalty kick, left Shilton Paul without a reply as Gokulam led 2-0.
The nail in Churchill’s coffin came in the 62nd minute when a long ball from the back found Dennis Antwi in the final third. Antwi wriggled past two defenders and scored with an outside-of-the-boot attempt from inside the box to hand Gokulam a 3-0 lead.
The unassailable scoreline seemed to take a toll on Churchill’s morale as they released sloppy passes and lost possession with ease. Staring down at the barrel of their first defeat, the Red Machines tried to create opportunities in the final third but were often left reeling in front of Gokulam’s superior defending. Even half-chances that usually Majcen and Zuniga score from, went awry.
Gokulam tried to add more gloss to the scoreline but efforts by Dennis Antwi to complete his hat-trick were kept out by Shilton Paul’s heroic goalkeeping. The full-time scoreline read 3-0 in favor of the Malabarians.