Kolkata, May 18 (IANS) ATK Mohun Bagan suffered a 2-4 loss at the hands of Gokulam Kerala in the opening match of the AFC Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.
Vincento Alberto Anesse’s men took the lead through Luka Majcen (50′) only for it to be cancelled out by a Pritam Kotal equaliser (53′). The Malabrians struck back with two quick-fire goals from Rishad (57′), Majcen (65′), and super-sub Jithin (89′) to ensure they collected three points against the Mariners who failed to overturn the deficit despite a Liston Colaco free-kick (80′).
The Mariners started the contest on the frontfoot making the most of their possession, as Roy Krishna struck a long-range shot right after making an interception at the centre of the pitch, which was saved by Gokulam Kerala FC goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar in the 6th minute.
In the 16th minute, the Mariners continued to explode forward, this time through Liston Colaco on the left flank whose cross was squandered high above the post by Roy Krishna.
Seconds later, Joni Kauko danced past the Malabarian midfield to find Roy Krishna open on the left wing who went for a shot from his weak foot but was denied by the post.
Then, the Malabarians put the Mariners on the backfoot after progressing forward on a counter through Jourdaine Fletcher who smashed it right in front of ATK Mohun Bagan keeper Amrinder Singh who comfortably saved it.
Gokulam Kerala FC got their first booking of the game as Emil Benny received a yellow card for bringing down Manvir Singh outside the edge of the box in the 24th minute.
Juan Ferrando’s men continued to trouble the Malabarian defence, this time through a brilliant one-two between David Williams and Krishna who found Kauko free in the box but the Finnish international placed his shot right in the hands of the shot-stopper Dargar.
The Green and Maroons were dealt with a blow as Tiri was replaced by Ashutosh Mehta, as the former had to be stretchered off the field as he suffered a huge blow on his knee after taking down Luka Majcen on the counter while also receiving a yellow card for the challenge.
Following an action packed first-half, both sides went goalless into the break.
At the start of the first half, Anesse’s men failed to capitalise as Luka Majcen missed a big chance after failing to convert from a pole position through a brilliantly put ball by Emil Benny.
The Malabarians drew first blood in the 50th minute through Luka Majcen, who was left unmarked inside the box and finished off from inside the box through a Tahir Zaman cross who did very well to cut back from the right wing to find Majcen.
With no time to spare, the Mariners levelled matters with a Kotal equaliser in the 53rd minute who tapped it in from a Colaco corner.
No sooner, Rishad found the net again for Gokulam Kerala FC with a calm and composed finish in the 57th minute, from a Fletcher pass who ran down the field to get hold of the ball, finding Rishad at the right time.
Eight minutes later, Anesse’s men showed thei prowess in front of goal again as their forward Majcen provided them with a two-goal cushion. Fletcher, using his physical strength, outmuscled Mehta and put it through for Majcen, who struck it right down the middle, through Amrinder’s legs to make it 3-1 for the Malabarians.
With the game continuously shifting from one end to the other, opportunities were plentiful for each side, giving the spectators value for their money.
In the 80th minute, the Mariners halved the deficit through a beautiful Colaco free-kick, taken from right outside the box. Colaco, known for his free-kicks, struck it at the far post with ease giving the keeper no time for a save.
The game swung in favour of Gokulam Kerala FC again when substitute Sreekuttan was through on goal after gliding past two defenders but failed to produce a goal after striking the shot way past the goal in the 81st minute.
In the dying stages of the game, Anesse’s men produced magic through Majcen and Jithin, as the former placed a line-breaking pass and the latter struck it in first touch in the right bottom corner to make it four for the Malabarians.
Gokulam Kerala FC made the Mariners pay for their missed chances and asserted domination in return, the result will help them secure the top position in Group D as things stand.
The Malabarians take on Bashundhara Kings whereas the Mariners clash against Maziya SC on Saturday.