Gokulam Kerala FC made history by becoming the first team of the I-League era with a 2-1 win over Mohammedan Sporting in a proper final on Sunday.
Defending midfielder Rishad PPA led defending champions Gokulam Kerala with his 49th minute strike to stun the over 35,000 crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium.
However, the home team was celebrating soon after as they equalized in the 56th minute when Marcus Joseph’s tremendous free-kick was caught by Azharuddin Malik’s ball and went into the net.
The home fans ‘joy, however, was short-lived as the Malabarians regained the lead while Emile Benny, running for third in the final after receiving a pass from Magsen and with no defender in sight, found the back of the opponents’ net. 61st minute.
No club has defended its title in the I-League era. On the Kolkata side, East Bengal won titles in the 2002–03 and 2003–04 seasons, during the I-League’s predecessor, the National Football League.
Chasing the first I-League title, local heavyweights Mohammadan Sporting entered an optimistic match from Kerala to improve the team in form, especially with plenty of fans supporting them from the stand.
However, the determined Malabarians did not let anything get in their way and won the title properly for the second consecutive season.
The defending champions have put in a stellar campaign and entered the final round with just one win away from winning their second consecutive I-League title.
Fighting against an undefeated home team in the five matches played in the playoffs was not an easy task, but Gokulam Kerala showed a lot of character and courage to win.
Gokulam Kerala FC was playing possession based football as the draw was enough for them, while Mohammedan SC was also moving fast and looking to attack.
Mohammedan SC came very close in the 25th minute, but Gokulam could not take effective advantage of the ball being cleared by Kerala FC defenders.
In the 42nd minute, Zothanmavia came to the rescue but Gokulam’s Jordan Fletcher could not use the error of the MDSC custodian.