I-League 2018/19: Surging Gokulam Kerala run into red hot Churchill Brothers

Kozhikode, November 29, 2018: After a sluggish start, Gokulam Kerala FC had just begun a mini-surge, when they find themselves running into a red-hot Churchill Brothers at the EMS Corporation stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Wednesday, November 30, 2018. The game begins at 5 PM and promises to be a thrilling encounter between the current number two and number three sides of the I-League in front of a packed stadium.

The Goan visitors have maintained an unbeaten record in their five games so far, one of only two sides to do so, and have plundered seven goals in their last two victories against quality opposition. Their efforts have taken them to second on the points table with nine points.

Romanian coach Petra Gigiu will be particularly pleased with the form of his leading marksman Willis Plaza, who has struck five of those seven goals. Churchill also have a compact defence which has conceded just four and maintained three clean sheets.

Besides experienced Indian players like Israil Gurung on the right wing, the Red Machines seem to have discovered a new lease of life in their game. Gambian Dawda Cessay has really acted like the able leader of the pack with regular effective and telling contributions.

Coach Gigiu while being cautiously optimistic also acknowledged the crowd factor saying, “Our last result was a good positive one but in a football match a team wins and the other one loses. Against Mohun Bagan, we utilised our chances and subsequently, we won. We’ll look forward to replicating the same tomorrow. We have seen the support behind them and that might be a key factor tomorrow.”

Bino George’s Gokulam on the other hand, actually began their surge in form, in a game in which they ended up on the losing side.

The 2-3 loss to table-toppers Chennai was the kind of confidence booster, if ever a loss can be called one, that Bino’s Boys needed. An exciting end to end see-saw battle, it was probably when Bino convinced himself that he was not going to let up on the attack for the remainder of the league.

Rajesh probably today is the biggest star in major parts of Kerala and his game is one for the crowds. He runs at defences, keeps the game simple and is relentless in his pursuit of goals. He along with the likes of VP Suhair and even a youngster like Gani Nigam have teamed up with Grenadian Antonio German to transform into a potent attacking force.

Speaking on the match-day eve, coach Bino said, “Churchill have been going through a good phase and we have also got some good results recently. We just want to stick to our plan and execute them on the pitch.”

He was also grateful for the home support quipping, “Spectators are coming to support us day in and day out and that keeps the boys pumped up to give the extra bit.”

What Gokulam will have to guard against is their defence. They have just one clean sheet from five games and against a team in the kind of goalscoring form like Churchill, it might prove costly in the end equations if not tightened up.

Both sides have never played a goalless draw in the two encounters they have had so far and Churchill are ahead in the head to head stats winning one out of those two. But they will not care too much for statistics on Friday as they bid for the primary challenger tag to runaway leaders Chennai City.