Naihati, May 10: There was no shortage of drama at Naihati Stadium as Sreenidi Deccan stunned I-League leaders Gokulam Kerala 3-1 here on Tuesday.
The Malabarians needed a point to clinch the title, but a tremendous first-half hat-trick from Lalromawia was enough to hand the defending champions their first defeat of the season, just before their decider with Mohammedan SC.
In the first 15 minutes of the match, Sreenidi Deccan had 84 per cent of the ball possession. Inching closer, a brilliant free kick from Lal Chungnunga shook the crossbar as rain poured down on Naihati.
Twenty minutes later, the pressure paid off for Sreenidi when Lalromawia, with a free header, headed the ball past Rakshit Dagar to give his side a surprise lead.
Minutes later, the ball was in the Sreenidi Deccan net as it appeared the Malabarians had leveled courtesy of Bouba Aminou, but the celebration was cut short when the linesman raised the flag for offside as tensions rose. in the field of Gokulam.
Quick feet inside Gokulam’s box by Louis Ogana helped the Nigerian lay it up for Lalromawia. The midfielder moved ahead of Dagar and scored Sreenidi’s second goal of the night, sending waves of joy through the Mohammedan SC supporters in the stadium.
Three minutes after the goal, things went from bad to worse for Gokulam as Lalromawia scored a stunning first-half hat-trick.
Vanlalbiaa Chhangte was the provider from the right flank as a soft header from Lalromawia beat Dagar for the third time, bouncing inside the far post and landing inside the goal, putting Sreenidi Deccan in complete charge of the game. Sreenidi finished first with 79% possession as Gokulam had just one shot on goal.
As expected, Gokulam came out on fire in the second half when Chungnunga brought down Jourdaine Fletcher and won a well-positioned free kick. Gokulam captain Sharif Mohammad delivered a poisonous strike from a set piece and beat Aryan Lamba to withdraw one.
Less than ten minutes after the goal, Gokulam took another hit as Sharif received his marching orders. After a foul on Muthu Mayakkannan, Sharif received a yellow card. The boss continued arguing with the referee and saw the second yellow card for disagreement and the Malabarians, who were still losing by two goals, were left with one less man.
As Sreenidi advanced, Gokulam broke right with substitute Sreekuttan VS. The winger’s shot is deflected by Lamba, who was stretched out.
Fifteen minutes from time, Sreekuttan found himself in a good position near the box with a teammate on either side. However, the attacker chose to continue alone and was thwarted by Sreenidi’s defense.
A shock win by Sreenidi Deccan kept Mohammedan SC’s title hopes alive and also lifted them above RoundGlass Punjab to fourth place, just one point behind their next opponents – Churchill Brothers. As for Gokulam Kerala, their 21-game unbeaten streak has come to an end and they are just three points behind Mohammedan before the final showdown on Sunday.