Indian Arrows beat Gokulam Kerala FC 1-0 at the EMS Stadium, Kozhikode on Friday evening thanks to a strike from Abhijeet Sarkar in the second half.
Bino George made three changes to the side that lost 0-1 to Minerva Punjab; Provat Lakra recovered from his injury to slot into the home side's defence. Francis Xavier started the game in place of an unwell Balwinder Singh. Arjun Jayaraj replaced Vicky Meitei and Odafa Okolie continued to lead the line in his second game for Gokulam Kerala.
Luis Norton de Matos rotated his team once again as Boris Singh, Anwar Ali, Sanjeev Stalin, Aniket Jadhav, Rahim Ali and Jeakson Singh all came back into the side after sitting out their 1-0 loss against Shillong Lajong.
Twelve minutes into the game, Gokulam Kerala had the chance to take the lead when Francis Xaviers curled in a delightful free-kick into the centre of the box. The legendary I-League goalscorer Odafa Okolie failed to direct his header into the net.
Right-back Boris Singh almost punished a sleepy home defence when he skipped past the defenders to get inside the box but his cut-back from the byline was parried away by goalkeeper Bilal.
Gokulam dominated possession for the majority of the first half but failed to create clear-cut chances. Jeakson and Amarjit failed to get a grip in midfield but they weren't punished due to a lack of vision by the frontline of Gokulam which involved an out-of-sorts Odafa Okolie walking around like a crocked, frustrated forward.
A frustrated Bino George brought on Vicky Meitei in place of an ineffective Francis Xavier in the 36th minute but the change did little to change the tempo of the game as the sides ended the half without goals.
A Sanjeev Stalin corner in the 52nd minute was headed towards the goal by Kerala-born Rahul Praveen but Mohammad Rashid saved Gokulam's blushed with a goal-line interception as Arrows upped the tempo after the restart.
Odafa's shot straight at Gill at the end of a quick Gokulam counter-attack and his general wastefulness in possession whenever the home side surged forward forced Bino George to replace the veteran striker with Mahmood Alajmi at the hour-mark.
The second half resurgence of Arrows helped them break the deadlock in the 77th minute and it was Keralite Rahul's run down the left flank that breached the home side's defence.
The Malayali winger got past Provat Lakra using his pace and slid in an inch-perfect low cross for Abhijit Sarkar who tapped the ball into the net at the far post.
Arrows exerted pressure in the attacking third in the dying moments of the game, with Kivi Zhimomi failing to find the net twice in one-on-one opportunities. But a lack of cutting edge proved to be the ultimate downfall of Gokulam Kerala against a talented Arrows side.