Kozhikode: Debutants Gokulam FC slumped to their fifth straight defeat in nine matches as Churchill Brothers registered their first win of the season in a goal-scoring thriller.
Confident after a hard-fought 1-1 draw against East Bengal, the ‘Red Machines’ began on a high eventually taking the lead through Kalu Ogba who scored within the first quarter. But Gokulam netted two inside 11 minutes before Ogba added another in the 74th minute, while Mechac Koffi scored a last-minute winner, two minutes into extra-time.
Both the teams have undergone a rough patch of late losing consecutive games on the trot and while Gokulam won one and draw another in their eight games, all Churchill had was a draw that came in the last encounter against East Bengal. That the match started scrappily with both sides failing to stitch together a pass exemplified their struggle in a 10-men league.
But Churchill could have gone ahead when Osagie Monday skipped a crowded midfield to find Nicholas Fernandes, with a long ball hat allowed the latter to go clear on goal, only for him to lose the ball with a needless touch. It didn’t matter though as Ogba’s volley landed inside the net. It was a powerful strike from outside the box which not just gave the visitors an early lead but also showed the confidence ‘Red Machines’ carried after drawing against a team placed second in the table.
Al-Ajmi however looked all-likely to find the equaliser, bossing the midfield for Gokulam FC and had Odafa Okolie been what he was in his prime, the home side could have well taken a three goal lead within the first 45 minutes.
The Nigerian headed straight at goalkeeper Kithan when Ajmi found him unmarked with a free-kick, before spilling a Irshad pass wide of the target and both were open chances.
Bino George’s boys nonetheless came blazing all guns after the restart but Odafa once again missed an opportunity after Al-Ajmi found him with a defence splitting ball second into the second-half. But their hard work finally paid off in the 59th minute when Daniel Addo pulled off a stunning header from a Santu Singh cross to give the hosts some respite, which soon turned into ecstacy 11 minutes later after Emmanuel Chigozie fired one into the net.
An Al-Ajmj free-kick was directed straight at Kithan, whose punch could go only as far as Chigizie and the defender made no mistake blasting it in to make it 2-1 in favour of the Kerala team.
Their joy however didn’t last long as Churchill after conceding two quick goals assembled things straight-away with striker Kalu Ulche taking just four minutes to level terms. Israel Gurung kept his free-kick low aloowing Kalu to slot the ball home for his second of the evening.
But just as when it seemed the match would need in a stalemate, Provat Lakra brought Koffi down and the Ivorian made no mistake from the spot guiding Churchill to an incredible comeback win, their first this season.
The victory lifted then to ninth, equal with Bangladesh’ critiquing bottom-placed Gokulam but ahead on a superior goal-difference.