Durand Cup: Gokulam Kerala edge out Mohun Bagan in thriller to win title
Gokulam Kerala FC held their nerve to beat Mohun Bagan 2-1 in a thrilling final of the 129th edition of the Durand Cup, at the Salt lake Stadium in Kolkata. The Kerala-based team were down to 10 men for the last 10 minutes, but managed to hold the 16-time champions at bay to create history.
The tournament's top-scorer Marcus Joseph—11 goals now—struck a brace (45th and 51st minute) for GKFC, while Salvador Chamorro pulled one back for the maroon-and-green brigade in the 64th minute.
Mohun Bagan were let down by their defence especially in the first-half, but the Mariners stepped up the attack after the break and pulled one back through the Chamorro header from a Joseba Beitia free-kick. But they just couldn't find the equaliser.
GKFC's Jestin George was shown a second yellow card for a terrible tackle on Kima. But the Malabarians' defence managed to hold on to their slender lead despite the numerical disadvantage to clinch Asia's oldest football tournament for Kerala for the first time in 22 years.
FC Kochin were the last and the only Kerala club to win the trophy in the past, while Viva Kerala had participated in the tournament in 2007, only to exit in the league stages.
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It was a tale of sorry state of defence led by Fran Morante as they crumbled under pressure especially when the ball came to Joseph and Henry Kisekka, who played for Mohun Bagan last season.
Mohun Bagan had better possession and more shots on target but failed to convert any as they went into the half-time conceding a stoppage time (45+1st) goal by Marcus.
The Mariners last won the third oldest tournament in the world way back in 2000 defeating Mahindra United 2-1 by a golden goal from R.C. Prakash, while this was their first final appearance since 2009.
Following a tale of missed opportunities, Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder made a mess of a one-on-one with Henry, when he pulled down his former teammate inside the box as referee Ajit Kumar Meitei had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to Gokulam Kerala.
Their left-footed captain, with two hat-tricks in the group stage, stepped up to convert from the spot with his shot to the right of an outstretched Majumder.
Six minutes into the second half, Joseph returned to haunt once again as he doubled the lead, virtually sounded a death knell for the 16-time champions.
The move was initiated by Naocha Singh from the midfield as there was another another defensive lapse by two Mohun Bagan defenders who left a big gap to see Joseph making full use of the through pass.
The Trinidadian managed to stay on side and surge past Lalchhawnkima to slot it home with his left-footer with Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder not able to cover the angle in time.
In the 64th minute, Chamorro delivered with a clinical header from Joseba Beitia's freekick as Ubaid fumbled to take an easy chance to see Mohun Bagan pull one back.
A couple of minutes later, Joseph was set up brilliantly by Kisekka as he shot powerfully beating Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Majumder by pace but thankfully for the home side it missed the target by a few inches.
A desperate Mohun Bagan pressed on their attack and Jesuraj put a low cross to Fran Gonzalez but his shot failed to breach Ubaid who found himself well placed.
(With PTI inputs)