Gokulam Kerala trounce Kerala Blasters 4-3 in Kerala Derby
Kerala Blasters started their Durand Cup 2023 campaign on a forgetful note as local neighbors Gokulam Kerala beat them 4-3 at the Mohun Bagan Ground in Kolkata on Sunday. Aminou Bouba, Sreekuttan Santosh, Naocha Singh, and Abhijith K scored for Gokulam Kerala while Justine Emmanuel, Prabir Das, and Adrian Luna found the net for Kerala Blasters.
Gokulam Kerala took the field in a 4-3-3 formation with Domingo Oramas helming the affairs. Zothanmawia guarded the sticks while Salam Ranjan Singh, Saurabh Meher, Vikas Saini, and Aminou Bouba provided protection in front of them. Nili Perdomo, Basit Ahmed Bhat, and Abhijith K played in the midfield with the trio of Srekuttan VS, Shijin Thadhayouse, and Alex Sanchez playing as the front three.
Kerala Blasters, too, fielded themselves in a 4-3-3 formation with Frank Dauwen coaching the side in the absence of Ivan Vukomanovic who is serving his suspension. Sachin Suresh played as the goalkeeper with Pritam Kotal, Bijoy Varghese, Prabir Das, and Naocha Singh playing as the defenders. Jeakson Singh, Mohammed Aimen, and Mohammed Azhar played as the midfielders with skipper Adrian Luna, Justine Emmanuel, and Nihal Sudeesh playing as the front three.
Aimen took the game’s first shot in the 12th minute for Kerala Blasters when he found himself at the end of a counter-attack from outside the box. However, the Gokulam Kerala defenders blocked the shot to keep the scoreline intact. Five minutes later, Gokulam took the lead courtesy of Bouba. Perdomo’s curling corner kick evaded everyone inside the box as the Cameroonian international nodded the ball in.
The Blasters could have equalised in the 24th minute through Luna’s corner kick but Justine’s header was inches above the crossbar. It was Justine’s turn to lay off the ball for Luna in the 28th minute but Zothanmawia stepped up to deny the latter the goal.
The Blasters finally equalised in the 35th minute when Justine tapped the ball into an empty net. Luna’s free-kick was saved by Zothanmawia but Aimen’s header hit the woodwork. Justine pounced on the rebound to make it 1-1.
Just when it seemed the two sides would head into the tunnel with scorelines levelled, Gokulam struck twice in two minutes. Alex Sanchez crossed the ball towards Sreekuttan whose header bulged the net. Perdomo found an unmarked Sanchez inside the box who made no mistake in slotting it home.
Two minutes into the second half, Gokulam increased their lead to three goals when Abhijith K ratted the net with a thunderous shot from outside the box. Sreekuttan tried to repeat Abhijith’s heroics in the 52nd minute but Sachin Suresh was up to the mark this time.
Aimen’s cross towards Prabir Das in the 54th minute was headed in by the latter as the Blasters pulled one goal back. Both the substitutes Rahul KP and Danish Farooq tried to find the net in the 71st minute but the Gokulam defenders denied them a chance at glory.
Bidyashagar Singh missed two back-to-back chances in the 75th minute as Kerala Blasters continued to pile up the pressure on the opposition. Their efforts finally paid dividends in the 77th minute when Bidyashagar set up Luna who made no mistake in finding the net.
The game slowed down its tempo in the final ten minutes as the scorching heat got the better of the two sides. The final scoreline read 4-3 in favor of Gokulam Kerala.
With two wins in two, Gokulam Kerala is well on their way to book a slot in the quarter-final of Durand Cup 2023. They will face Bengaluru next Tuesday in an attempt to make it three wins in a row. Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, will square off against Bengaluru on Friday in a repeat of this year’s ISL playoffs.