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I-League

I-League Final Day: Gokulam Kerala take on Mohammedan SC in title clash — Preview, when and where to watch

A historic day for Indian football is guaranteed when Mohammedan SC lock horns with Gokulam Kerala FC for the I-League title decider match.

Gokulam Kerala FC take on Mohammedan FC in the I-League 2021-22 final (Source: Hero I-League)
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Gokulam Kerala FC take on Mohammedan FC in the I-League 2021-22 final (Source: Hero I-League)

By

The Bridge Desk

Published: 14 May 2022 6:37 AM GMT

A historic day for Indian football is guaranteed on Saturday when Mohammedan SC lock horns with Gokulam Kerala FC at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan for the I-League title decider match.

While Mohammedan will be on the hunt for their maiden I-League title, Kerala Blasters would be eyeing to become the first team in the I-League era to defend their crown.

The defending champions did not expect that they would have to face the litmus test tonight. With 40 points in 17 matches, the Malabarians had a golden chance to wrap up the title last Tuesday, needing just a draw against Sreenidi Deccan — a first title defence in 15 years of I-League football. The club that was born just in 2017, could have added another feather to its illustrative trophy cabinet - a second I-League title, along with 1 Durand Cup, 2 Kerala Premier Leagues, 1 Indian Women's League titles.

However, fate had other plans for them as the Malabarians suffered their first loss of the season going down 1-3 against Srinidi Deccan.

They are now posed against stern test from the second-placed Mohammedan Sporting, who are three points behind. The black-and-white brigade, who made a resurgence after decades of negligence will be backed by 40,000 odd supporters at the ground of the final in Kolkata tonight. The I-League has been played in a bubble for the past two years, but this match will be open to crowds.

Mohammedan maintained the pressure on Gokulam with a 2-0 win over Rajasthan United, which cut the gap to three points. If Mohammedan Sporting win, as per tournament rules, they would be declared winners on the basis of a superior head-to-head count. The first-leg game had ended 1-1. Meanwhile, a draw will be enough for the visitors to dash Mohammedan Sporting's dreams.

What lies in store for fans

Mohammedan have never come this close to winning the I-League. They were languishing in the I-League 2nd division for a decade and were just promoted to I-League last season. Things started to look better for the side since coach Andrey Chernyshov took over the reins in 2021. He led the team to the final of the Durand Cup last year and their first Calcutta Football League title in 40 years. Before the play the virtual final tonight, Coach Chernyshov said in the press conference that he always believed that they stood a chance, even though Gokulam were a long way ahead with matches running out.

"I told my players that this is football. Anybody can win or lose in a minute. We kept playing well and had good results. Now we have the chance to win the title and our fans in the city are excited about it.

"It's good for Indian football. Two good teams will fight for the title," Chernyshov said.



He is hoping to make the most of the Black-and-White brigade support. "Of course, it will be an advantage for us to have a big crowd behind us tomorrow. It's not an easy situation for Gokulam. We've been waiting for this match since July last year. It's going to be a big game and I hope the fans will enjoy good football tomorrow," Chernyshov concluded.

Gokulam Kerala will not only be up against a resurgent Mohammedan side but also against the home crowd. Coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese knows that going for a draw is not an option. "We've scored 42 goals so far. We play an attacking style and always go for the win. If we play to defend, with so many Mohammedan fans against us, we'll only invite pressure. We need to play for the win to kill their hopes," said the Italian.

The Malabarians' reason for worry may be the absence of their playmaking midfielder Sharif Mukhammad, who is suspended for the game. However, coach Annese stressed the fighting spirit, which would be important in this game. The gaffer said, "Doesn't matter who plays, we need a player with a heart. We will play in front of almost 40,000 supporters, so we need the fighting spirit more than anything."

When to watch the I-League 2021-22 final day clash?

The I-League final day match between Mohammedan SC and Gokulam Kerala FC will start at 7 PM IST.

Where to watch the I-League 2021-22 final day clash?

The I-League final day match between Mohammedan SC and Gokulam Kerala FC will be shown LIVE on the Facebook page of I-League.

Keep an eye on The Bridge's LIVE blog for all the updates from the match.


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