The Malabarians registered their first win this season.

Gokulam Kerala defeated Shillong Lajong 3-1 at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Sunday to pick up their first I-League win of the season. It was an absolute clinic from the Malabarians, who capitalized on Shillong’s defensive vulnerabilities and kept bombing forward with relentless attacks.

Gani Nigam opened the scoring for the hosts, while second alf goals from Antonio German and Rajesh were enough to down Shillong, who couldn’t do much after pulling one back through Phrangki Buam. Here are the talking points for the game:

5. Shillong’s vulnerable set-piece defending cost them

Shillong Lajong have been quite poor in defending set-pieces so far, conceding quite a few goals from free-kicks and corners. It’s because of the inexperience of their young players that they often misread the set-pieces and end up making mistakes. It was Shillong’s poor defending which allowed the ball to fall to Nigam to blast in from close range.

They were again at fault defending a corner in the second half, when it was played short to German and he got too much time to take the shot which deflected into the goal. Alison Kharsyntiew needs to work on his side’s set-piece defending, which is causing them all sorts of problems.

4. Gani Nigam displayed glimpses of a promising future

Gokulam Kerala were a bit lacking in midfield against Shillong, with both Mudde Musa and Arjun Jayaraj being absent from the team. Much reliance was put on the shoulders of youngster Nigam, who thrived in the situation. Gani operated as a midfielder, but surged ahead in attack with much intent. He made some darting runs forward and troubled the Shillong defence, but was unlucky not to get much out of the forays.

However, he got his reward when a deflected free-kick fell into his path, allowing him to score emphatically. The midfielder was also on song creatively, often putting in clever passes in the final third. He got an assist when his beautiful cross perfectly found Rajesh in the box. Nigam gave a really tireless performance, winning the Man of the Match award and repaying Bino George’s faith in him.

3. Gokulam may have finally found their team chemistry

The Malabarians operated like a well-oiled machine on Sunday, moving forward with great intent and effortlessly moving past Shillong’s defenders. They not only capitalized on the opposition’s poor set-piece defending to score their first, but continued to attack with great vigoru.

Gokulam Kerala looked intent on entertaining the 15,000-strong at the EMS Corporation Stadium and played a fluid brand of football. They made some great moves through the wings, using their pace and physicality to terrorize Shillong. Gokulam finally looked like a team with this performance.


2. Shillong’s attacking approach is having an adverse effect at the back

The way Shillong Lajong look to attack with flair in each and every game is a valuable trait. However, they need to realize the dangers of continuing such an approach in difficult away matches and how they could be punished by the home sides. Lajong often put many men forward against Gokulam, allowing them to hit them on the counter on various occasions. Kharsyntiew’s side need to respect the threat their opposition has, especially away from home and focus on defending as well.

1. Gokulam’s excellent front-three too hot to handle

Gokulam Kerala started with a front three against the defensively questionable Shillong Lajong, with Antonio German, Rajesh, and VP Suhair all getting to start together. This was a masterstroke from Bino Geroge, as the three players had an absolute blast. Their chemistry was top-notch and they distracted Shillong’s defenders by often interchanging positions.

German scored his goal thanks to some help from Lajong’s defenders, while Rajesh scored a sweet header to put the game to bed. However, the three moved forward with intent throughout the game and often launched some electric counter-attacks.