Gokulam Kerala beat Aizawl FC to extend winning run

Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC continued their winning run in the I-League 2022-23, defeating Aizawl FC 1-0 in a well-contested second round tie at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl on Friday, November 18, 2022.

Thahir Zaman’s perfect header three minutes from the final whistle proved enough for the Malabarians to return to the dressing room with three points and stay at the table top with six points from two encounters.

The match started with Gokulam Kerala making the initial attacks through the wings, but soon the home side grew into the game and the tie turned into a midfield tussle.

As the first half progressed, Gokulam’s Cameroonian striker Auguste Somlaga was involved into some positive moves but he was suitably dealt with by the Aizawl defensive duo of Emmanuel Makinde and Akito Saito.

After some time, the home side also pressed high and initiated a few moves. Their best attempt of the half came two minutes from halftime when Aizawl’s Henry Kisekka launched a shot from the left flank but his effort just went wide.

The game restarted with Aizawl FC showing lots of urgency on the front foot. The home team came close to scoring in the 53rd minute with R Ramdinthara, who received the ball in the box following good build-up from the wing, couldn’t keep his shot in control. A minute later, Aizawl received a corner kick which resulted in a powerful header from Nigerian Makinde. His header skimmed past the post.

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The vociferous fans kept motivating the home team as they continued to press through their quick passing game. Aizawl’s 20-year-old R Lalthanmawia tried a right footed curler, but his shot went straight at the Gokulam Kerala goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil.

The visitors, on the other hand, remained organised throughout and absorbed all the pressure from the home team, while making regular moves into the rival area. Their grit proved to be successful as they scored the match-winner in the 87th minute. An inch-perfect cross from the right by Arjun Jayaraj was neatly finished by substitute Thahir Zaman.

During the add-on time, Kisekka found himself unmarked during a corner kick but he couldn’t keep his header on target, thus losing the opportunity to equalise. The home side made a charge in the final minutes of the game but it wasn’t enough for them as Gokulam Kerala clinched all three points.

Jourdaine Fletcher the difference as NEROCA beat Sudeva Delhi

NEROCA FC picked up their first win of the I-League 2022-23 season on Friday (November 18, 2022), defeating Sudeva Delhi FC by a 1-0 margin at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, Manipur.

Jourdain Fletcher’s long-range shot proved to be the difference between the two teams as the hosts got their first win of the new campaign, while Sudeva suffered their second loss on the trot.

The first half of the match was a virtual see-saw of scoring chances, with both teams displaying attacking football and both goalkeepers being called into action on multiple occasions.

Early in the fourth minute, Sardor Jakhonov’s shot was deflected and fell awkwardly in the penalty area, with Sudeva goalkeeper Sachin Jha having to make an alert collection. Four minutes later, on the other end, Felix Chidi cut in from the left and fired a shot that was saved well by Soram Poirei.

The game suddenly sparked into life after the 26th minute, thanks to Sudeva’s Seilenthang Lotjem, as he attempted an acrobatic volley from a cross but his shot went narrowly wide. Ten minutes later, he found himself in space outside the penalty area and attempted a chipped shot, which was collected by Poirei.

In the 38th minute, Jakhonov curled in a fine cross from the left that was headed on target by Lunminlen Haokip, but was straight at the keeper. In the next minute, Sudeva had another shot saved as Misawa Tetsuaki’s attempt at the near post was kept out, as the teams headed into the breather at level pegging.

The hosts created the first big chance of the second half through Fletcher, whose powerful effort from long range in the 51st minute was tipped around the post by Jha. However, he was left stranded in the 62nd minute as Fletcher collected a pass by Nonganba Singh and caressed the ball into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area to give NEROCA the lead.

Two minutes later, Jakhonov tried his luck from distance as well, but it lacked sufficient power and was collected safely. The home side almost got their second through Haokip as his deflected shot grazed the top of the crossbar and went out for a corner kick.

With the visitors pushing men forward, NEROCA had a chance to extend their lead when Fletcher found Jakhonov on a breakaway attack in the 73rd minute. However, Jokhonov made a mess of the finish as he was unable to place it on target.

Sudeva tried to push for the equaliser but were unable to make major inroads into the hosts’ defence. A good chance came in the 80th minute as Akbar Khan had a free-kick from just outside the penalty area, but his shot hit the wall. Three minutes later, substitute Francis Nwankwo saw his curling effort get deflected and go inches past the post.

In the 88th minute, skipper Nishchal Chandan got his head to a corner kick but it was weak and was saved easily. The referee added six minutes of add-on time but the scoreline remained unchanged as NEROCA bagged all three points.

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