GKFC’s defeat leaves all four teams in Group D with three points each.

Gokulam Kerala suffered a disappointing 1-0 loss to Maziya S&RC in the second game of the AFC Cup 2022 group stages on Saturday. A solitary goal from Cornelius Stewart in the 50th minute was enough to give the Maldivian side, their first win and keep their hopes alive of making the knockouts stages. Their win also means all four teams in Group D are now tied on three points each heading into the final set of games. Gokulam Kerala coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese shared his thoughts following the defeat.

The head coach spoke on the lack of preparation for the game, being completely outplayed, and his team’s chances of making the knockouts.

Thoughts on the loss

Gokulam manager Vincenzo Annese was clearly disappointed after the loss, as he remarked: “The performance was not at the level we wanted tonight. The speed of the game wasn’t easy too. They had quality players in the attack, big possession-based style and it was difficult for us because our defence struggled to make contact. I know some of our players didn’t play to their strengths or start in the right way and that caused a problem.

Maziya has played in this tournament for many years, whereas this is our second game, so we need more experience in it. Now we need to think about the next game. We made many mistakes with the ball, but we want to control the details in the game. But they also had quality international players like Cornelius, who made the impact,” he further opined.

Lack of experience cost Gokulam Kerala?

Annese also pointed out that Maziya is a far more experienced side in the AFC Cup than Gokulam Kerala, who were only playing their second game in the competition. He also lamented the lack of proper time to prepare for the game.

“They have players with more experience in this competition, but it’s not just because of that we lost. We had a lot of distractions before the game, like we didn’t get enough time for pre-match training as the pitch was still being fixed (due to the rain).

“The players didn’t have it easy to defend, in order to defend you have to win the second ball. When you don’t fight for the second ball and when you don’t act to the spirit of the competition, you go forward but you can struggle in defensive spaces, then you get vulnerable.

“We need to recover the energy and understand that next time. If we play with the spirit as we did in the last game against ATK Mohun Bagan, we can produce that same performance. After today’s game, some might think Maziya are a better team than ATKMB, but for sure I realized they had the quality to defend and also attack really well.

“Their coach is a highly experienced, he has won multiple trophies. For us, we need to think about the next game, recover well and not think too much about this loss. We need to recover well and prepare ourselves for the next game,” he also added.

Gokulam Kerala’s chances of winning the group

With this result, it means all four teams in Group D have a chance to get into the knockout stages. Speaking about his side’s chances of making it out of the group stages, Vincenzo Annese said: “I just want to win the next game. I want to send a message, it’s that I really don’t think about these situations, I just think about winning the next game. Today we fell short, but for me the next game is very important. We need to recover well and fix our problems for the next game.

“For example, Jourdaine (Fletcher) experienced some issues, one player being leggy in the game isn’t good. But I don’t want to use excuses. Maziya deserved to win, we need to enter the next game with the same energy and desire as we did while starting the tournament,” he concluded.

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