Kozhikode: Gagandeep Bali’s early strike made all the difference as Minerva Punjab secured a close 1-0 win over debutants Gokulam FC at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday.
It was from Chencho Gyeltshen’s cross that found the forward, who made no mistake to slot the ball past a hapless Bilal Hussein Khan as early as the 18th minute.
An important away win, it also put them back to the second position outplacing Neroca with 16 points from seven outings, while Gokulam dropped low to ninth with just four points from the same number of matches.
The goal had come against the run of play in a moment when the home side dominated the proceedings, creating numerous chances one that could have seen Odafa Okolie score on his return to the I-League but failed to find the target in what was the first minute of the match.
However for all it’s dominance Gokulam’s best chance came when Vicky Meiti’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar and but the rebound was shot wide by Odafa. A chance that changed the complexion of the match as Minerva slowly took control making it harder for Gokulam to attack.
Chencho who had been Minerva’s best outfield player in the past six outings once again stood out making some dazzling runs in the left channel, something that kept another Gokulam debutant Balwinder busy all night. His perfect-inch cross for Gagandeep to score was just a highlight of the amazing evening he had.
Gokulam came close quite a number of times but it was the ‘Warriors’ who should have gone ahead in the 79th minute when the home team custodian Khan gave away the ball cheaply but substitute Logo Dogbo failed to find the target. Another such chance in seven minutes later saw a goal-line clearance and Minerva remained content with the solitary goal.