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Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC slug it out for a draw on hills

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Aizawl (Mizoram) | December 16, 2023 7:51:22 PM IST
It was a fierce battle and, eventually, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC had to settle for a 1-1 draw in a crucial I-League encounter at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Saturday.

Lalbiakdika helped Aizawl take the lead in the 31st minute before Gokulam Kerala captain Alejandro Sanchez Lopez scored the equaliser in the added minutes of the first half. The strike helped Lopez become currently the sole top-scorer of the tournament with 10 goals.

Heading into the match, the stakes were high. A win for either side would have proved critical in their pursuit of the I-League title. However, neither team could gain the upper hand. The draw meant Aizawl are in fourth place in the I-League table with 18 points from 10 matches, including five wins, three draws and two losses. The Malabarians occupy the sixth spot with 14 points from 10 matches. They have won three games, drawn five and lost two.

Aizawl seized the lead in the 31st minute. The move was initiated by Lalthankhuma, who found K Lalrinfela on the right wing with a through pass. Lalrinfela executed a deceptive body feint to outmanoeuvre a Gokulam Kerala defender and sent a well-directed low cross into the box. Lalbiakdika timed his run perfectly, meeting the ball in the penalty area and scoring with a well-crafted shot.

Later, in the 43rd minute, Aizawl had another chance to increase their lead. Lalthanmawia took a shot, but once again, it was Paul who came to Gokulam's rescue with a diving save.

Gokulam Kerala responded with the equaliser in the added minutes of the first half. They patiently built up their attack, stringing together several passes. The moment of brilliance came from Muhammed Saheef, who delivered a beautifully curled cross from the left wing. Alejandro Sanchez Lopez showcased his keen sense of positioning by finding a gap between Aizawl's defenders, Ivan Maric and Laldanmawia, and leapt to head the ball into the net.

After the break, Aizawl started in the same attacking vein but couldn't threaten much. A significant factor in Gokulam Kerala's performance was the effective neutralization of Aizawl's in-form striker, Lalrinzuala. Despite being the league's second-highest scorer with nine goals, Lalrinzuala struggled to make an impact. The Gokulam Kerala defence's strategy and positioning limited his opportunities and influence in front of the goal. Even though he attempted to adapt by dropping deeper in the formation, Lalrinzuala was unable to pose a significant threat.

The Malabarians, on the other hand, settled into the match nicely and created a number of opportunities in the second half. But an alert Aizawl goalkeeper Nora Fernandes ensured that the scoreline remained 1-1. (ANI)

 
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