The Malabarians produced an amazing defensive performance while Mohun Bagan could not stop the opposition forwards.

Gritty Gokulam Kerala trounced Mohun Bagan 1-2 in the final of the 129th Durand Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday evening.

A brace from captain Marcus Joseph was enough to win them the title, as Bagan’s efforts were not enough. The Mariners pulled one back through Salva Chamorro in the 64th minute, but it was too little too late for Kibu Vicuna’s men. Here are the talking points from the match:

5. Was this Gokulam Kerala’s best defensive show in the Durand Cup?

Fernando Valera has fine-tuned the Gokulam defence led by big Caribbean defender Andre Ettienne. The Malabarians were terrific in their defensive shape as they piled men at the back to thwart the Mohun Bagan attack time and again. The main aim was to use Henry Kisekka and Joseph upfront on the counter and allow no space in front of goal to the opposition.

This was undoubtedly their best performance defensively in the Durand Cup. The Indian players also combined well and showed great understanding at the back.

4. Is uncertainty in defence Kibu Vicuna’s biggest concern this season?

The former Osasuna assistant coach has tried several combinations in defence and more often than not, the Mariners have looked very fragile at the back. While Francisco Morante has shown stability and resistance, the Indian contingent has simply failed to deliver. Players like Ashutosh Mehta, Lalchhhawnkima and Gurjinder Kumar have blown hot and cold throughout the tournament. While the Mariners looked solid in the semi-final against Real Kashmir, they were completly shambolic in the finale.

The Indian trio were too late to react to the danger and hence the Mariners were often caught off guard at the back. Coupled with Kisekka’s physical presence upfront and Joseph’s pace and trickery, the Indian backline of Mohun Bagan were having a tough time to resist the attacks from Gokulam.

3. Were Mohun Bagan too predictable in the final third?

The Mariners dominated the midfield for most of the game, but Gokulam piled men at the back and did not allow the likes of Joseba Beitia and Surabuddin Mollick to create chances in the final third. The Malabarians were excellent in defence and hence Bagan were looking to bombard the penalty area with incessent crosses from both flanks, in search of players like Chamorro and Suhair.

The one dimensional approach from the Mariners became comparatively easy for the Gokulam defence to manage. Both strikers had to drop deep to collect the ball, as they were given no space in the final third.

2. Did Vicuna miss a trick by not starting Romario Jesuraj?

The former Chennai City winger created multiple chances in the semi-final win against Real Kashmir. He combined well with Mollick and was a constant threat down the right flank. But, Vicuna started with the star of that game, Suhair upfront alongside Chamorro.

However, the Kerala-born forward failed to penetrate the Gokulam defence and was given no space in the final third. He was not allowed to play his natural game and was substituted for Jesuraj in the second half. Romario added more energy in the final third and threatened the Gokulam defenders time and again with his movement.

1. Can Marcus Joseph take Gokulam Kerala to greater heights this season?

The Caribbean striker has been a revelation ever since he joined Gokulam last season. He has carried his form through the Durand Cup, scoring 11 goals in their journey to the title. Joseph led the Malabarians from the front and was the man behind every attack for Valera’s team.

He also dropped deep to augment the midfield and created chances for his teammates. The 28-year-old also made the most of the half chances which came his way. His penetration and movement can be a nightmare for any opposition and if he continues to perform this way, he can be the main man for Gokulam this season in the I-League.