Kozhikode (Kerala)[India], February 13 (ANI): Gokulam Kerala FC eked out a hard-fought 2-0 win over Shillong Lajong FC in a crucial I-League match at the EMS Stadium in Kozhikode on Monday.

For Gokulam Kerala, Sourav K and Matija Babovic were the scorers. This was the Malabarians' third win on the trot after two big wins over Sreenidi Deccan FC and Inter Kashi on either side of their Kalinga Super Cup campaign.

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The win helped Gokulam climb to the third spot in the I-League standings with 23 points from 13 matches. They have six wins, five draws and two losses. Lajong remained in the sixth spot with 19 points from 13 games, including five wins, four draws and losses each.

The match commenced with both teams adopting a cautious strategy, indicating a reluctance to take risks. This approach led to a scrappy and tentative first half, with neither side committing fully to an aggressive offensive strategy.

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Gokulam Kerala, despite their cautious approach, attempted to build momentum through several attacks and maintained a significant portion of ball possession. Yet, their early efforts lacked the necessary penetration to break down Lajong's defence.

Lajong, content with a defensive posture, focused on disrupting Gokulam Kerala's play. They effectively cut off passes and tightly marked the opponents, especially targeting Alejandro Sanchez. The Spanish footballer, who is the leading scorer in the I-League with 13 goals, found himself heavily marked and unable to influence the game as he typically does. In an attempt to get more involved, he dropped deeper into midfield and also tried to create from the wings, but Lajong's disciplined defence ensured he remained contained.

The deadlock was finally broken in the added minutes of the first half, marking the first real test for either of the goalkeepers. The goal came from a moment of lapse from the Lajong defence, which failed to effectively clear a cross coming in from the right flank. The ball inadvertently landed at the feet of Sourav who seized the opportunity to take a first-time shot towards goal.

Sourav's attempt was blocked by Lajong's defender, Daniel Goncalves. However, fortune favoured the midfielder on the rebound as his shot found the top right corner of the net and gave Gokulam Kerala the lead.

Following their late first-half goal, Gokulam Kerala entered the second half with increased confidence and momentum firmly on their side. They took control of the midfield, dictating the pace and flow of the game, which allowed them to further assert their dominance over Lajong.

Their continued pressure paid off in the 72nd minute when they managed to extend their lead. The play was masterfully set up by Sanchez. Demonstrating his playmaking abilities, Sanchez orchestrated a critical move by laying off a precise pass to Babovic, who had come on as a second-half substitute for Komron Tursunov.

Upon receiving the pass, the Serbian forward executed a quick turn to create space for himself. He then fired a shot that resulted in Gokulam Kerala's second goal of the match. The two-goal cushion was enough for the hosts to seal off a win. (ANI)

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