Gokulam Kerala FC on Saturday won their first I-League title in a spectacular way when they came back from a goal down to beat TRAU 4-1 in the final match of the season here.
The 23rd minute of Bidyashagar Singh did not interfere with the jacknaut from Gokulam, as the goals of Sharif Mohammed (69th), Emil Beni (74th), Denis Antvi (77th) and Mohammad Rashid (90 + 6) they were presented with the trophy.
With Churchill Brothers’ 3-2 win over Punjab FC in the other match of the day, held elsewhere here at the same time, Gokulam shared points (29) with the Goan side, but was crowned champion head to head.
In both games, both sides have played this season, Churchill has won 3-2 once, while Gokulam has won 3-0 in the other.
Thus, Gokulam qualified for the group stage of the AFC Cup next season, the second level of the Asian club competition, as champions in the I-League. They also became the first country in Kerala to win the I-League title.
The coach of the winning team Vincenzo Alberto Annese could not hide his joy at the achievements of his players.
“This is the best day of my life. I feel so happy and I feel amazing to be crowned champion. I am incredibly proud of my team and we deserved to be champions. We beat all the teams and played like champions this season,” he said. Anez.
“It means everything to me. This is my first season in India and it was already very special. We have a very special team and no one plays the style of football we play,” he added.
Bidyshagar, a revelation in the I-League, like his team TRAU, opened the scoring when he made a brilliant finish off the field in the 23rd minute.
Right after the resumption, Chanso Horam had a golden opportunity to pass to TRAU his second goal of the match, but his chip shot went inches above the crossbar after a fine counterattack.
Gokulam striker Dennis Antwie failed to find the net in the 62nd minute when his header agonized wide away from Emil Benny’s cross from the right flank.
Sharif Mohamed’s free kick 69 minutes into the match seemed wasted, as the shot was both short and off target. But was this actually a plan? The ball landed at the feet of FC Gokulam Kerala, who was completely unmarked in the box. The return went well in the 74th minute, when Emil Benny slipped past his marker and drove home through the legs of Amrit Gope to give Gokulam the lead.
Three minutes later Dennis Antvey scored to increase the lead.
After TRAU player Vince Barreto was sent off in added time, Mohamed Rashid scored the fourth goal for Gokulam, adding more brilliance to complete the remarkable return.
In the other game, Churchill took the lead in the ninth minute when Clay Zuniga was sent off inside the penalty area. Following the penalty shootout, Slovenian striker Luka Maicen turned around, sending trustee rival Jaspreet Singh in the wrong way.
Churchill doubled his lead in the 25th minute through Zuniga, who scored his second goal in the first half, adding time to give Goan a 3-0 lead.
Faced with a difficult task, Punjab FC managed to pull one back in the 65th minute through Joseba Beitia and added another four minutes later through Papa Diawara.
Gokulam collected 1 kroner as a cash prize, while the second, third and fourth teams in the table received 60 rupees, 40 rupees and 25 rupees respectively.
Bidyashagar Singh (TRAU) won the award for top scorer (Rs 2.5 lakh) along with the Hero of the League award (Rs 5 lakh). The award for best goalkeeper (Rs 2.5 lakh) went to Kiran Limbu from Punjab FC. Sayed Abdul Rahim
Nandakumar Singh from TRAU received the award for best coach.