Kozhikode, March 1: Gokulam Kerala FC and Punjab FC shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in their I-League match at the EMC Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode on Saturday (February 29).
Punjab FC's Dipanda Dicka drew first blood in the 33rd minute thanks to a defensive and goalkeeping lapse by Gokulam, while the visitors returned the favour in the 63rd minute to allow Nathaniel Garcia equalise for the home side.
With this result, Punjab FC remain in second place on the league table with 22 points in 14 matches - 10 points behind leaders Mohun Bagan, while Gokulam stay at seventh with 18 points in 13 games.
The game started with the home side pressing hard for an early lead. Marcus Joseph along with Henry Kisseka and Garcia ensured that the Punjab FC defence was on high alert for most parts of the game.
However, credit has to be given to Punjab's backline along with their Nepalese goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu, who stood like a wall to ensure that the deadly attacking duo of the home side was not left with any space to find the back of the net.
FULL-TIME ⌛— Hero I-League (@ILeagueOfficial) February 29, 2020
Shibil goes 1-vs-1 on goal, squares it to Marcus, but the weight on the pass is not enough, as the referee blows his whistle as soon as the chance is cleared 🙌
GKFC 1⃣-1⃣ PFC#GKFCPFC ⚔ #HeroILeague 🏆 #LeagueForAll 🤝 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/8QP1PInzlP
Gokulam, who have not been too solid in defence so far this season, were on their toes trying to stop Punjab's counter-attacks.
However, Punjab soon struck in the 33rd minute through Dipanda Dicka, who made no mistakes in finding the back of the net after exploiting a defensive lapse and miscommunication between Gokulam's goalkeeper CK Ubaid and defender Mohammed Irshad.
Trailing by a goal, Gokulam tried hard to equalize, attacking in short bursts. But, some gutsy goalkeeping and a super-alert Punjab defensive line ensured the first half came to an end with the visitors enjoying a 1-0 lead.
The second period began with the hosts pressing hard but Punjab held firm to their advantage. Gokulam's lack of innovation in the final third ensured they had to work harder for that equaliser.
Gokulam prayers were soon rewarded when a long-range effort by Garcia in the 63rd minute sneaked its way into the back of the net, giving the home side a much-needed leveller.
Buoyed by the goal, they went on attacking spree in search of the lead but Punjab kept the Gokulam' attacking line at bay.
The Kerala side were unlucky not to find the net towards the end as Joseph fired in a long shot in the 81st minute that hit the post. In the dying moments of injury time, Gokulam failed to capitalise on a scoring opportunity in front of an open goal.