Kozhikode: A spirited Gokulam Kerala side held Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Thursday.
First-half goals from Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisseka ensured a draw, of a match that had everything in it to be an intense clash. Of both the sides, Mohun Bagan were dominant in the initial stages of the game, especially with the thought of clinching another I-League title if all the other results went their way.
While Minerva Punjab eventually won the league, Mohun Bagan finished third in the table with 31 points from 18 matches, just above arch-rivals East Bengal, who too have the same number of points but are below them, courtesy their head-to-head record.
Both sides made one change coming into the match. While Sankarlal Chakraborty preferred Rana Gharami over Kinshuk Debnath, Gokulam Kerala coach Bino George picked Nikhil Bernand over Bilal Khan, after a poor performance by the latter against Aizawl.
The visitors easily dictated the proceedings early on with easy passing from Cameron Watson and Yuta Kinowaki in the attacking third. The Mariners showed intent to take the lead and they nearly got one through a Nikhil Kadam cross in the ninth minute but it missed Akhram Moghrabi’s head by just a few inches.
Playing in the right wing position, he threatened to take a lead once again through a shot from the edge of the box, which kissed the bar before going out.
Mohun Bagan’s continued efforts of breaking the deadlock bore fruit in the 26th minute when a shot from Cameron Watson hit the underside of the crossbar before falling in Dicka’s path, who slotted it into the net.
Gokulam, trailing by a goal needed to equalise in order to jeopardize Mohun Bagan’s chances of going all the way in the competition. They did so too, through a long ball from Irshad which was easily converted into the much-needed equaliser by Kisseka.
The hosts then almost took the lead when Arjun Jayaraj after the 60-minute mark, attempted a shot that deflected and fell
on Rashid’s way inside the box. With the Mohun Bagan defenders blocking him, he attempted a backheel pass to Jayaraj, who was eventually denied a goal by Shilton Paul.
Many more chances came the way of the men in Green and Maroon as the game slowly headed towards the dying stages. A long ball from Kadam was flicked by Moghrabi but Dicka failed to make any connection. He once missed another opportunity after failing to control his header from an Arijit Bagui’s cross from the right.