Triumphant Gokulam Kerala become the first team to defend their title in the I-League era | Soccer News

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KOLKATA: Gokulam Kerala FC made history by becoming the first team in the I-League era to defend their title with a 2-1 win over Mohammedan Sporting in a proper final on Sunday.
Rishad PP, who plays as a defensive midfielder, gave defending champion Gokulam Kerala the lead with his 49th-minute strike to stun the supporting crowd of over 35,000 at Salt Lake Stadium.
However, the home side were quick to celebrate when they found the equalizer in the 56th minute, when Marcus Joseph’s terrific free-kick was deflected by Azharuddin Mallick and entered the net.

The home fans’ joy, however, was short-lived as the Malabarians regained the lead when Emil Benny, running in the final third after receiving a pass from Majcen and with no defenders in sight, found the back of the opposition net in the 61st minute.
No club in the I-League era has defended its title. East Bengal side Kolkata had achieved the feat in the days of the National Football League, the predecessor of the I-League, winning the title in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.
Chasing a maiden I-League title, local heavyweights Mohammedan Sporting entered the game with optimism of getting the better of the in-form Kerala side, especially with many fans cheering them on. supported from the stands.
However, the determined Malabarians let nothing get in their way and claimed the title for the second consecutive season.

The defending champions enjoyed a great campaign and entered the final round game just one win away from securing their second consecutive I League title.
It was not an easy task to face the home side who were undefeated in the five matches played in the playoffs, but Gokulam Kerala showed great character and courage to emerge victorious.
Gokulam Kerala FC were playing possession-based football as a draw was enough for them, while Mohammedan SC were also moving fast and looking to attack.
Mohammedan SC came very close in the 25th minute but couldn’t capitalize effectively as the ball was cleared by the Gokulam Kerala FC defenders.
In the 42nd minute, Zothanmawia came too far to defend but Gokulam’s Jourdaine Fletcher couldn’t take advantage of the MDSC keeper’s blunder.



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