Former I-League champions Aizawl FC oversaw a late storm from Gokulam Kerala to beat 3-2 in a thriller at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium on Saturday.
The victory – Aizawl’s only second in 10 matches, took them to ninth in the points table with nine points. Gokulam after their fifth straight winless game are a rung above with 10 points from as many matches.
After a barren first-half, the game burst to life in the second with Ansumana Kromah – guilty of missing a sitter early – breaking the deadlock in the 51st minute before Lalkhawpuimawia and Rochharzela added two more within seven minutes of each other.
Gokulam, who had struggled to impose themselves throughout the match, mounted a late comeback deep into stoppage time when Joel Sunday scored twice in as many minutes. But failed to breach the net a third time as Aizawl registered their only second win in the competition.
Winless in their last three fixtures, both sides started on an attacking note but failed to crave enough chances to score. Aizawl were still the better the team and should have gone ahead through Kromah after Rochharzela found him with a low cross having sent Gokulam left-back Dimple Bhagat for a ride downtown. But the Liberian despite in space could not connect his shot.
That was after Rochharzela had also set up Lalkhawpuimawia and Alfred Jaryan but both failed to place their resulting header on target. Vanlalthanga also had a bullet parried away by goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil.
Kromah, however, made amends for his earlier miss with the opening goal just minutes after play restarted. A misunderstanding on the Gokulam backline from a Vanlalthanga cross allowed the Liberian to sneak in and score.
Lalrinchhana then assisted Lalkhawpuimawia with a wonderful pass for the striker to slot the ball home in the 63rd minute. And seven minutes later Rochharzela tripled the lead when Chawnghlut Lalrosanga found him with a cross from the right.
But Gokulam, who had until then struggled to create chances for themselves, put up relentless attacks in the final few minutes.
Joel Sunday pulled one back in the second minute of extra-time and then scored from the spot to make it 2-3 with two minutes still to play. Hmingthanmawia handled the ball inside the box leading the penalty.
But Sunday’s spurred opportunity from an open situation just seconds before he had scored Gokulam’s opening goal.