Monday, May 16, 2022

I-League 2021/22: Gokulam Kerala Become First Team To Win Successive I-League Trophies

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Gokulam Kerala created new history with their second successive I-League title as they became the first team to win this trophy for two consecutive seasons. On the final day of the I-League 2021/22 season, the defending champions beat the runners-up Mohammedan SC by a 2-1 margin at Salt Lake Stadium (Kolkata) to retain the trophy.  

The first-half action ended with a goalless draw. Rishad finally opened the scoreline of the match for Gokulam Kerala in just the fourth minute of the second half. While Azharuddin Mallick scored the equalizer goal in the 57th minute of the game, Emil Benny helped the Malabarians to regain the lead at 61 minutes. Though the Kolkata-based club fought hard to make another comeback in the game, they failed on their mission.

While the champions Gokulam Kerala have finished this I-League season with 43 points in 18 games (13 wins, 4 draws and 1 loss), Mohammedan SC are in the second position with 37 points in 18 matches (11 wins, 4 draws and 3 losses).

The final day goals for both Gokulam Kerala and Mohammedan SC

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Before this final-day game of the I-League 2021/22, the Malabarians had 40 points in 17 games, and the Black Panthers had 37 points in 17 matches. The defending champions just had to avoid a defeat on the last day to win this title with the higher points.

I-League
Image Credit: Twitter

Gokulam Kerala, who remained unbeaten in their first 16 games of this I-League season, could secure their second I-League title last Tuesday (10th May), during their previous match against Sreenidi Deccan with just a draw result. But Sreenidi Deccan ended Gokulam’s record 21-match unbeaten streak in the I-League with a 3-1 win. That result forced the competition to move to the final day to decide the title winners.

In the meantime, the Kolkata-based club Mohammedan SC must have to win the game to record their maiden I-League title. They would win the title due to having better head-to-head records against the Kerala club this season (earlier in this season, Gokulam Kerala vs Mohammedan SC match ended with a draw result).  

Key moments of the last game of the season

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After a good one-two pass, Rishad’s grounded shot just from outside the box helped Gokulam Kerala to take a 1-0 lead in the game.

Later, Marcus Joseph’s brilliant free-kick hit Azharuddin Mallick’s body to create a deflection to beat the Malabarians goalie Rakshit Dagar to make the scoreline 1-1.

Mohammedan SC
Azharuddin Mallick leveled the scoreline (Image Credit: Twitter)

Soon, the defending champions produced a brilliant counter-attack to set up their second goal, thanks to Emil Benny’s superb finish.  

The I-League 2021/22 champions have now qualified for the playoffs for the 2023/24 AFC Cup Group Stage spot. They will later face the I-League 2022/23 champions in the playoffs for the 2023/24 AFC Cup Group Stage spot.

I-League 2021/22: Signing off

Gokulam Kerala became the first team to win the I-league title for two straight seasons. Previously, Dempo won this trophy thrice, while Churchill Brothers, Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan clinched this trophy twice each. But none of them managed to win in consecutive seasons.

I-League debutants Sreenidi Deccan finished as the third-best team in this competition (32 points in 18 games), while the two-time I-League winners Churchill Brothers finished in the fourth position in the points table (30 points in 18 matches). Also, Sreenidi and Churchill met earlier on Saturday (14th May), where Sreenidi surpassed Churchill to finish in the third position with a stoppage-time goal from the midfielder Lalromawia.

The Mumbai-based Kenkre FC have been relegated to the I-League 2nd Division after finishing in the last position in the I-League 2021/22 with just 12 points in 17 games.  

Mohammedan SC forward Marcus Joseph finished this I-League as the most goal-scorer with 15 goals. Also, their captain Nikola Stojanović recorded nine assists – the leading assist provider in this competition.

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