I-League 2019-20 Highlights: Gokulam beat Churchill 1-0, 25,000 turn up to support late Dhanarajan’s family

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Home side Gokulam Kerala FC notched up a solitary goal victory over former champions Churchill Brothers FC of Goa in an I-League clash, riding on a first-half strike from Marcus Joseph at Kozhikode on Sunday.

Gokulam now moves up to fourth on the table, winning half of their eight completed games for 13 points, while Churchill will move a spot down to sixth with 10 from seven games.

In a wonderful gesture, the Gokulam management had declared that the proceeds from the game would be donated to the family of former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal player Dhanarajan, who passed away under tragic circumstances last month, and the local crowd responded with 21,346 turnouts even though the official press release stated the footfall to be 25,000.

India captain Sunil Chhetri and star player Sandesh Jhingan bought hundreds of tickets for this game to support the noble cause.

Both sides went into the game suffering losses in their previous encounter. While the visitor’s coach Bernardo Tabares rang in four changes, some of them forced, like that of the injury to top striker Willis Plaza, Gokulam’s Spanish coach Santiago Varela brought in Afghan Haroon Amiri and Sebastian in place of Jestin Geroge and Salman, who had started the last game.

The first clear chance of the game came Gokulam’s way in the 18th minute to center-back Andre Ettienne. Ugandan forward Henry Kisekka then missed the best chance in the first half-hour, catching Churchill keeper Jaffar Mondal well outside his line, but his attempt at lobbing the keeper missed by a whisker.

The hosts broke through in the 38th minute via their talisman Marcus. Amiri got the assist with a wonderful ball into the box piercing the left-side of the Churchill defense.

The Trinidadian striker gamely followed through and his rasping drive beat Mondal to bulge the Churchill net. This was his fifth goal of this season’s league and it duly got him another Hero of the Match award.