Maziya edge Gokulam Kerala to keep AFC Cup knockouts hope alive
Cornelius Stewart scored the only goal of the match.
Maziya Sports & Recreation revived their AFC Cup 2022 knockout stage hopes and set up a thrilling final day of Group D action with a deserved 1-0 win over Gokulam Kerala FC on Saturday.
A Cornelius Stewart goal shortly after half-time settled the tie, leaving all four teams in the group on three points ahead of Tuesday’s third and final Matchday at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium.
That means every kick will take on significance when Gokulam Kerala face Bashundhara Kings in their final match, while Maziya will go into the group finale against ATK Mohun Bagan knowing exactly what is required.
While Gokulam Kerala were riding high following Wednesday’s brilliant 4-2 win over ATK Mohun Bagan, Maziya came into the tie desperate for the win that might revive their campaign, and it was the Maldivian side who largely controlled the first half.
There were warning signs for the I-League champions when Hussain Nihan sent a half-volley narrowly wide in the 10th minute, and Nemanje Kartal arguably should have scored when Tana picked him out with a far-post cross nine minutes later.
Another chance went begging when Hmaza Mohamed skied an effort from 10 yards shortly after, and a brilliant last-ditch interception from Gokulam Kerala’s Alex Saji just before half-time ensured the sides would go to the break deadlocked at 0-0 despite Maziya racking up 12 shots at goal to 3 and retaining the lion’s share of possession.
Gokulam Kerala boss Vincenzo Alberto Annese shuffled the deck with a pair of half-time substitutions, but it was Maziya who continued to call the shots and they finally capitalised on their dominance in the 50th minute, with Stewart bringing Tana’s pass under control before finding the net with the aid of a deflection from around 15 yards.
Attempts from Saji and Abdul Hakku hinted at signs of life for the Indian side, but Maziya were the ones who looked more likely to add to the scoring, and they very nearly did when Tana’s long-range free kick hit the crossbar with 12 minutes remaining.
Tana’s set piece deliveries continued to cause problems until the end, with Kartal’s header rattling the woodwork after one of them with five minutes remaining, but it was Stewart’s goal which proved pivotal as Miodrag Ješić’s men lived to fight another day.