Kozhikode: In a clash which did not help either side much at the end, hosts Gokulam Kerala FC played out a 1-1 draw against debutants Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC of Imphal at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Sunday evening.
Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka struck his fifth goal of this season in the 22nd minute which was neutralised by a spectacular strike from Krishnananda Singh in the 52nd minute of the game.
Following this result, TRAU will hold their third position with 15 points from 10 games and Gokulam will be placed fourth with 14, having played one game fewer. Meanwhile, Gokulam remained unbeaten at home for all four games this season while TRAU's unbeaten streak extends to five games including their four wins on the trot.
Both sides fielded an unchanged eleven and the home side were clearly better in the first half, both in terms of creating chances and holding possession. While Gokulam were on with their build-up play from the word go, TRAU took a while to settled into their game of short and quick passes.
Diminutive Trinidadian midfielder Nathaniel Garcia broke away down the right flank in the 1st minute itself for the hosts, releasing Kisekka inside the box but it was miraculously saved by Mithun Samanta.
There was another chance for Gokulam's Naocha Singh but his strike in the 8th minute missed the target by a whisker.
Gokulam took the lead off a short corner by their captain Marcus Joseph. The interception and clearance by the TRAU defence was not up to the mark and it only found its way till Mayakanan, who was rushing in from midfield. He relayed it back to an unmarked Joseph who had positioned himself inside the box.
Joseph shot with his favoured left-foot and the shot was well covered by Samanta, but on the rebound, it invited Kisekka, who was lurking to pounce, to tap it inside the goal.
It was the Ugandan's fifth of the season and he had caught up with his strike partner Marcus Joseph.
TRAU did have one golden chance before the half ended when a Patrick Uche free-kick from just outside the box was well struck and placed, but an equally better ave from Ubaid kept them at bay.
The second half began in similar fashion for Gokulam as the first, with Joseph hitting the TRAU left upright in the very first minute.
But it was the league debutants who found their way back into the game thanks to their second-half substitute Joseph Olaleye, who was introduced at the expense of Naocha Singh.
Latching onto a ball on the right flank, the Nigerian left Gokulam's Muirang in his wake to drive inside the box and deliver a measured cross. Ubaid pulled off a couple of brilliant saves. First, when Krishnananda met the cross with a header followed by Emeka's shot which got deflected to the post.
He was third-time unlucky though as Krishna got a second bite of the cherry and bulged the Gokulam net with his right foot.
Gokulam tried their best to get a winner. Marcus hit the post again in the 65th and a Kisekka curler in the 75th could not find the bottom corner. Gokulam coach Fernando Santiago Varela, in a last-ditch effort, made two changes, having brought on Shibil and Lalromawia for Mayakanan and Sebastian respectively, in the 85th minute but to no avail.
TRAU, to their credit, also did not sit back and pressed for a win themselves. Krishna was rested in the 78th for another Nigerian forward Joel Sunday who had two strikes from a distance but both went wide.