AFC Cup 2022: All you need to know about Gokulam Kerala FC, ATK Mohun Bagan’s group stage opponents
ATK Mohun Bagan is set to face a stern challenge when they take on fellow Indian club Gokulam Kerala FC in their AFC Cup 2022 group stage match at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday evening.
The football club based out of Calicut, in Northern Kerala, was only formed in 2017, but has already created an inspiring image in Indian football. In their debut season, Gokulam Kerala FC clinched the 2017-18 Kerala Premier League, along with a seventh place finish in the Hero I-League. Following a lacklustre 2018, the ‘Malabarians’ claimed its first national level silverware - 2019 Durand Cup, by defeating heavyweights East Bengal in the semi-final and Mohun Bagan in the final.
The graph went uphill for them since the triumph and is still on the ascendence. Gokulam Kerala FC went on to lift the Hero I-League 2020-21 , thus becoming the first team from the state to win a national title. They successfully defended the title in the 2021-22 season, which was also the first for any club. By virtue of the Hero I-League 2020-21 triumph, they qualified for the AFC Cup 2022 , which marks a first continental appearance for a Kerala-based side.
Form Guide - DWWLW
Gokulam Kerala FC have been phenomenal in the recently concluded Hero I-League. In 18 matches, they emerged victorious on 13 occasions, along with four draws and just one loss. Even in the last five matches, Vincenzo Alberto Annese-based side won thrice, lost once and shared the spoils in the other. More than that, they trumped Mohammedan Sporting Club, in their own den - in Kolkata, at the Salt Lake Stadium, the venue for the upcoming game.
Despite only being the fourth highest goal-scorer in the Hero I-League 2021-22, the Jamaican will be the man to watch out for in the much-anticipated clash, having made some sensational displays towards the end of the season. In the Hero I-League championship stage, Jourdaine scored four goals and assisted once in six matches. With the striker already acclimatised with the conditions in Kolkata, he will remain ATK Mohun Bagan’s biggest threat.
Storming into the scene with a brilliant Santosh Trophy 2017-18, where he was the highest scorer with five goals, en-route Kerala’s championship win, Jithin MS has improved leaps and bounds over the years. A part of two I-League winning teams, the speedy footballer can be a constant menace to the opponent’s defence with his pace and trickery. His goalscoring abilities just adds more strength to the overall game, which ATK Mohun Bagan should be wary of.
Gokulam Kerala FC will field with a 4-4-2 formation, even though it will be interesting to see whether they play with the duo of Jourdain Fletcher and Luka Majcen up-front. Afghani footballer Sharif Mukhammad will pull the strings from the midfield, with young lad Emil Benny, while Jithin MS and Thahir Zaman charging from the wings. The back-four might remain the same, with Alex Saji and Aminou Bouba playing as central midfielders, as Abdul Hakku, on loan from Kerala Blasters FC, and Muhammad Uvais set to play as side-backs. Veteran Rakshit Dagar will guard the castle to complete the starting XI.
Fixture: ATK Mohun Bagan vs Gokulam Kerala FC
Date: May 18, 2022
Time: 4:30 PM (IST)
Venue: Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
Telecast: Star Sports Network