The last round of I-League 2023-24 before the new year had a very interesting list of clashes and goals galore, with Gokulam Kerala inflicting an upset on Sreenidi Deccan away from home, Inter Kashi shared points with Aizawl FC, and Rajasthan United edging past TRAU in an enthralling nine-goal thriller as they completed a stunning comeback.
Meanwhile, Shillong Lajong outclassed Namdhari FC, and Delhi FC held on to a single-goal lead against Real Kashmir. Mohammedan SC triumphed over Neroca FC, maintaining their unbeaten record this season.
With the International break and the Kalinga Super Cup 2024 to follow up, some I-League teams got their confirmed spots in the group stages of the upcoming Super Cup as well as a well-deserved rest ahead of the latter phase of the I-league, as we get a better idea of how the final standings will shape up.
Gokulam Kerala cruises to a stunning win against Sreenidi Deccan
The round commenced in Hyderabad on 19th December 2023 as Gokulam Kerala ran rampant against the hosts, Sreenidi Deccan with a thumping 4-1 win. Though the match was off to an even start, Malabarians shot into the lead in the ninth minute, with Spanish striker Nili Perdomo catching the goalkeeper Albino Games on the wrong foot.
Kerala then doubled its lead through captain Alex Sanchez. Sreekuttan added to misery and gave Gokulam a 3-0 lead before the first half ended. Alex Sanchez added to his and his team’s goal tally as he walked the ball into the net right at the start of the next half. Substitute William Alves got a consolation at the end via a penalty.
As a result, Gokulam climbed to the sixth spot in the league, whereas Sreenidi missed a golden opportunity to jump to the second spot but got a confirmed spot in the upcoming Kalinga Super Cup
Aizawl FC’s late equalizer grabs them a point against Inter Kashi
Lalhangaihkima’s late goal cancelled out Mohammed Asif’s first-half opener as Aizawl drew 1-1 with Inter Kashi at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Thursday, December 21, 2023. Aizawl’s late goal could also cost Inter Kashi a direct spot in the Super Cup as they now have to play Rajasthan United FC in a playoff.
The hosts maintained their seven games unbeaten run and are still maintaining a top-four spot in the league. Meanwhile, Inter Kashi could have put the game to bed much before. Still, Aizawl goalkeeper Nora Fernandes saved his team on multiple occasions and eventually played a pivotal role in getting his team a crucial point.
Rajasthan United came back from the ashes to beat TRAU FC in a nine-goal thriller
Rajasthan United pulled one of the best comebacks of recent times in Indian football as they beat TRAU FC 5-4 in a thrilling encounter, after trailing the game by 4 goals to 1 by the 55th minute, at the Kalyani Stadium on 22nd December. TRAU started the proceedings in style as Abraham Okyere opened the scoring in the ninth minute, only for William Pauliankhum to equalize in the 21st minute.
However, TRAU dominated the game afterwards as Danish Aribam scored the second goal for TRAU in the 31st minute followed by Deepak Singh’s goal and Jefferson Oliveira’s unfortunate own goal in quick succession scored an unfortunate own goal as TRAU FC got into a 4-1 lead by the 55th minute of the game.
This is when Ghanaian star, Richardson Kwaku Denzell turned the game on its head as he scored a brilliant hattrick along with Novin Gurung’s strike to clinch a memorable win for the Desert Warriors and complete one of the greatest comebacks and individual performances the I-league has ever seen. With this win, Rajasthan United sealed a playoff spot for the Kalinga Super Cup and also added more salt to the wounds of a miserable season TRAU FC are having as they are struggling at the bottom of the table.
Shillong Lajong outclasses Namdhari FC at home
After two back-to-back losses, Shillong Lajong got their mojo back as they returned to Shillong and dominated Namdhari FC in a comfortable 3-0 win on 22nd December. Senegal’s Karim Samb and Brazilian Renan Paulino struck in each half before Kenstar Kharsong wrapped it up with an injury-time goal for the Reds, who ended a memorable year in the best possible way in front of their passionate home fans.
After this win, The Reds are fifth in the league now with 19 points and also got a spot in the group stages of the upcoming Super Cup.
Namdhari FC on the other hand are struggling as they finished the year at the 11th spot in the league.
Delhi FC edge out Real Kashmir in a close encounter at the Namdhari Stadium
Delhi FC ended their year on a sweet note as they beat a strong Real Kashmir side in a close 1-0 victory on 24th December 2023. Delhi’s Brazilian striker Hudson Jesus scored the only goal of the game in the 77th minute as they ended the Snow Leopards’ six-game unbeaten streak and also registered their first clean sheet of the season. On the other hand, Real Kashmir have fallen behind in the I-League title race as they missed the opportunity to grab three points on Sunday and are now sitting at the second spot.
Mohammedan SC take a seven-point lead at the top of I-League table
The Black Panthers continued their dominance in the I-League this season as they clinched another three points against the struggling Neroca FC on 24th December 2023 at the Naihati Stadium. Mohammedan SC are the only unbeaten team in the league so far and has a massive seven points lead already and are already looking all set to lift the I-League trophy for the first time in their gloried history.
First-half strikes from David Lalhlansanga and Lalremsanga Fanai sealed all three points for the hosts. NEROCA did pull one goal back in the second half through David Simbo, but it wasn’t enough to trouble the league leaders.
Neroca did create some late chances and looked for an equalizer but the Black Panthers were very professional and parked the bus at the end to secure a win and a very comfortable lead as the players get a much-deserved winter break.
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