I-League 2017-18: Gokulam Kerala 2-3 Churchill Brothers: Koffi scores late winner as Red Machines trump Malabarians
The home side played their heart out in Calicut but a soft penalty gifted a win to the visitors.

Churchill Brothers registered their first win of the ongoing I-League season after getting the better of Gokulam Kerala at the EMS Stadium on Monday evening.

Kalu Ogba scored a brace (15’ and 74’) for Churchill while Daniel Addo (59’) and Emmanuel Chigozie (70’) scored for Gokulam Kerala. However, it was Mechac Koffi who stole the limelight by scoring a 92nd-minute winner from the penalty spot. 

Bino George rang in the changes once again for Gokulam Kerala as new signing from Bahrain, Mahmood Al-Ajmi, came into the side to slot in behind an out-of-form Odafa Okolie. Laldampuia and Salman flanked the no.9 to constitute a revamped attack for the home side.

Mechac Koffi, who scored a second-half equaliser for Churchill Brothers in their last game against East Bengal, continued to lead the lines for the Red Machines. Nigerian forward Peter Omoduemuke, Nicholas Fernandes and youngster Uttam Rai were deployed in support of the Ivory Coast striker.

It was a scrappy start to the game as both sides resorted to silly fouls in midfield, trying to prevent passes into the attacking third.

Osagie Monday chose to skip the crowded midfield altogether with a long ball towards Nicholas Fernandes on the right flank. Provat Lakra's misjudgement of the flight of the pass allowed the Goan winger a free run into the box but a loose touch from him allowed the home defence to clear the ball away from danger.

The visitors opened the scoring in the 15th minute, thanks to a stunning volley from outside the box by Kalu Ogba. A throw-in by Jovel Martins from the left was initially headed clear by Daniel Addo inside the box. Arjun Jayaraj, who was positioned on the edge of the box, attempted an overhead clearance which ended up at the feet of the Nigerian striker who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.

The home side surged forward in search of an equaliser with the help of Al-Ajmi who bossed the midfield for Gokulam Kerala.

Odafa Okalie's lack of pace had been hurting Kerala's attack but the legendary I-League striker's touches were still too much for Wayne Vaz who was forced to foul him on the edge of the box at the half-hour mark.

Mahmood Al-Ajmi stepped up and curled the resulting free-kick into the side netting. Moreover, Okolie wasted two golden chances to bring his side back into the game just before the half-time whistle.

Irshad's defence-splitting through-ball found Odafa inside the box who shifted the ball onto his right foot before sending an unconvincing shot wide of the target. Then, Al-Ajmi's free-kick was headed straight at Kithan by Okolie just before the referee brought the half to an end.

Bino George's men came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. But Odafa Okolie spurned his third chance of the night when he failed to slot the ball past Kithan after Al-Ajmi played him in with a perfect through-ball into the 18-yard-box.

The hard-work paid off in the 59th minute when Santu Singh's looping cross into the Churchill box was emphatically headed into the net by Daniel Addo.

Eleven minutes after the Nigerian centre-back equalised, his partner struck to give Kerala the lead. The impressive Al-Ajmi had his free-kick blocked by Suraj but the ball fell to Emmanuel Chigozie who fired it into the net to make it 2-1.

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The joy didn't last long as substitute Israil Gurung's curling free-kick into the box at the other end allowed Kalu Ogba to direct the ball past Bilal to score his second of the night.

Vicky Meitei's late challenge at the edge of the box on Richard Costa gave Churchill Brothers a chance to grab a late winner but Osagie Monday saw his powerful free-kick hit the crossbar.

Against the run of play, the visitors got the gift that they wanted as Lakra's soft challenge on Britto inside the box was punished by the referee. The resulting spot-kick was blasted into the net by Mechac Koffi as Churchill Brothers secured all three points at the end of an action-packed affair in Calicut.

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