I-League 2018-19: Rajesh heads Gokulam Kerala past Minerva Punjab
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The Kerala striker's header in the second-half sealed three points for the hosts in an otherwise uninspiring match...

Gokulam Kerala edged past Minerva Punjab 1-0 at the EMS Stadium in Kozhikode on Sunday.

Rajesh (60') scored the only goal of the game from a Gani Ahmed cross in the second half to seal three points for the hosts. 

Bino George's first team was unchanged after their first win of the season against Shillong Lajong at the same venue. Paul Munster made just one change from the team that started their win over Aizawl as Luntinmang Haokip replaced Moinuddin.

The match got off to a cagey start as both teams seemed unwilling to take risks. Minerva's left flank was the most active area of the pitch but Donatus Edafa's repeated attempts to provide the visitors with a breakthrough were in vain. 

Gokulam's 4-4-2 with Suhair and Antonio German leading the line proved to be ineffective, with Amandeep and Njoku taking advantage of the extra space in midfield. 

The match had to be stopped for more than 20 minutes after a few floodlights malfunctioned and the visitors had two good chances to take the lead in the prolonged added time.

Deepak's careless backpass was nicked by Opoku who tried to find Edafa from the left flank. Abhishek Das's last-ditch tackle prevented the Nigerian from getting a shot away. 

Close to half-time, full-back Souvik Das' cross into the centre of the box was headed inches wide by Edafe.

Gokulam Kerala came out all guns blazing after the break and pushed forward in search of a breakthrough. Gani Ahmed tried to make things happen on the flanks and his attempts finally bore fruit at the hour-mark.

A give-and-go with Suhair at the edge of the box allowed Gani to ghost to the byline and pick out Rajesh's run through the centre. The striker headed home from handshaking distance to give Gokulam the lead. 

The goal gave the hosts confidence and they could have sealed the game in the 77th minute when Antonio German initiated a pacy counter. The former Kerala Blasters forward squared the ball to an unmarked Rashid to his right inside the box who opted to pass rather than shoot. It was deemed to be the wrong choice by the midfielder as Das' shot flew straight into the hands of Bhaskar Roy. 

Minerva Punjab failed to challenge Shibinraj as the second-half wore on with Gokulam Kerala holding on to their lead. 

The three points helps the hosts to the second spot on the table. 

 

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