Gokulam Kerala Football Club made history by becoming the first team from Kerala to win the I-League title. Gokulam fought back from a goal down to sink Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) 4-1 in the vital final league match in Kolkata on Saturday.
The second-half blitz starting with Afghan midfielder Sharif Mohammad's stunning free-kick in the 70th minute capped a remarkable campaign for the team from Kozhikode.
Though both Gokulam and Churchill Brothers finished on 29 points, the Malabarians won the title on head-to-head record. They beat the Goans 3-0 after having suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the former champions earlier.
Gokulam got better as the season progressed and they were unbeaten in the championship round. Overall, Gokulam played 15 matches and won nine while drawing two and losing four. Gokulam, who ended the first phase in fourth place, dropped just two points in the championship round, winning four out of the five games and drawing 1-1 with Real Kashmir.
The Malabarians played an attractive attacking game adopted by Italian head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese. They scored the maximum number of goals (31) in the competition.
Gokulam have improved with each season. They had become the second Kerala team after FC Kochin to win the prestigious Durand Cup in 2019.
Ghanaian strike duo of Denny Antwi and Phillip Adjah played a big role in Gokulam's triumph. Antwi netted 11 goals, while Adjah found the target five times.
It was also a memorable campaign for Young Kerala midfielder Emil Benny. The 20-year-old from Wayanad scored three goals, including one in the crunch game against TRAU.
Gokulam's triumph is a big boost to the sport in the state. Nothing succeeds like success and Annese can be proud of moulding his team into a champion outfit in his very first season at the club.