Chennai City FC beat Gokulam Kerala FC 3-2 in their sixth match of the ongoing I-League 2019-20 season on Thursday at the EMS Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode.
Fito (44'), Pravitto Raju (54') and Sriram B (77') were on target for the visitors while Shibil Muhammed (81', 90') netted a brace for the hosts.
Fernando Santiago Varela made two changes to the Gokulam lineup. Lalromawia and Haroon Amiri came in for Malemnganba Meitei and Jestin George.
Akbar Nawaz, on the other hand, made three changes in the Chennai City starting XI. Tarif Akhand, Adolfo Miranda (Fito) and Syed Suhail Pasha replaced Jockson Dhas, Mashoor Shereef and Pravitto Raju.
Gokulam Kerala started the game on the ascendancy and could have easily picked up the lead in the sixth minute when skipper Marcus Joseph got a golden opportunity to score. The Trinidadian failed to find the back of the net from handshaking distance.
The hosts were punished for missing numerous chances at the stroke of half time when against the run of play, Fito broke the deadlock for Chennai City. The striker received a through ball inside the box and scored past Vigneshwaran Baskaran from a one-on-one scenario.
The visitors doubled their lead in the 54th minute when Fito entered the box from the right side and squared it for Pravitto Raju. Baskaran had managed to stop Raju’s first shot but he scored from the rebound.
Chennai then further piled on Gokulam’s misery when Sriram netted a third for his team in the 77th minute from Suhail Pasha’s pass. Suhail did very well to go past Andre Ettienne inside the box before setting the ball up for Sriram.
There was more drama in store in the final 10 minutes of the match. The hosts were reduced to eight men after Vigneshwaran Baskaran left the stadium on an ambulance due to injury. Later, Haroon Amiri and Mohammed Irshad were sent off in the injury time.
Important win for Akbar Nawaz's side.
The defending champions did not have the best of starts to their campaign. Since their win against TRAU FC in the first match, Chennai were on a four-match winless streak. The win against a strong side like Gokulam away from home will give Nawaz's boys the much-needed boost in the campaign.
Late red cards will harm Gokualm Kerala.
Two key Gokulam Kerala players Haroon Amiri and Mohammed Irshad were sent off just minutes before the final whistle. Thus the two important pillars in Gokulam backline will not be able to take the field in their crucial tie against East Bengal.
Chennai City next play against Bahrain's Al Riffa in their first-ever AFC Champions League preliminary round clash on January 14. Gokulam, on the other hand, face Kolkata giants East Bengal in Kalyani on January 15.