Fletcher brace helps Gokulam Kerala see off tough Aizawl challenge
Kalyani, April 1, 2022
Gokulam Kerala FC saw off the challenge of a resolute Aizawl FC outfit, defeating them 2-1 in the Hero I-League at the Kalyani Stadium on Friday.
The Malabarians scored both goals through Jourdain Ronaldo Fletcher in the second half. Ayush Dev Chhetri pulled one goal back for Aizawl FC with the pick of the goals in the contest, but the defending champions snuffed out Aizawl’s efforts to mount a late comeback and bagged all three points.
Although situated on opposite ends of the Hero I-League table, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala went toe-to-toe in this contest as equals on the football pitch. The evenly contested affair saw chances pop up aplenty for either side in the first half.
The defending champions threatened to score the opening goal of the game a couple of times in the first half an hour. In the 26th minute, a half-hearted clearance from a Gokulam Kerala corner down the right flank landed at the feet of Fletcher inside the Aizawl FC box. Fletcher opted for the first time shot as the ball sat up nicely and drew an alert save from Anuj Kumar in the Aizawl goal.
A minute later, Fletcher was on the end of another chance from inside the box. Fletcher’s first touch took him slightly wider than he would have liked, yet he still got his shot away and tested goalkeeper Anuj Kumar yet again. After his initial save presented an opportunity for a rebound, the Aizawl defence was quick to crowd out the dangerous Luka Majcen inside the box.
Aizawl FC produced a moment of quality as they came close to scoring in the 42nd minute. A well-worked set piece routine right off their training ground presented a shooting opportunity for Samuel Lalmuanpuia, whose shot narrowly flashed past the wrong side of the frame of the goal.
Anuj Kumar’s inspired form in goal bailed out Aizawl FC once again, as the keeper denied Luka Majcen in a one versus one situation in added time of the first half to keep the scores level going into the break.
After starting the second half on the front foot, the frustration seemed to grow for the Malabarians as Luka Majcen struck the woodwork from six yards out in the 58th minute. Sreekuttan VS and Jithin M.S combined down the half space on the right flank, and the latter pulled back a low cross for Luka Majcen, who was unable to convert the golden opportunity.
However, the sustained pressure from Gokulam Kerala finally unlocked the Aizawl defence in the 63rd minute. Substitute Sreekuttan VS, who made an instant impact after coming on, took on his opposite number inside the box and came onto his left foot, following a couple of body feints. His initial effort came back off the base of the post, but Gokulam Kerala earned their due reward as Fletcher pounced on the loose ball to finish off the rebound.
Aizawl FC almost had an equaliser out of nothing in the 68th minute when Joseph’s tame effort was mishandled by Rakshit Dagar in goal. After spilling the ball, the goalkeeper reacted just in time to spare his blushes and allow Aizawl FC back into the match.
As Aizawl FC committed more numbers in attack in search of an equaliser, it was Gokulam Kerala FC that found the resulting advantage in the 88th minute. Fletcher was played through with a regulation pass from inside Gokulam’s half and a last ditch effort to play him offside yielded no success, as the forward was left with all the time in the world to bear down on goal and pick his spot. Fletcher made no mistake in securing his brace and sending Gokulam Kerala on their way to another three points.
Aizawl FC complicated proceedings in the dying embers of the game, as a well-worked corner played deep into the far post set up Ayush Chhetri on the edge of the box. Chhetri shaped his body up in perfect position and whipped the ball into the top corner, as Rakshit Dagar could only see the ball sail past him.
More late drama followed in added time, as Robert Primus got sent off in the 93rd minute, leaving Aizawl FC a man light in the twilight of the contest. Primus was sent off for impeding Fletcher and denying the attacker a clear goal scoring opportunity for what could have been his hat-trick.