Gokulam FC Kerala made their way out to the pitch at the Corporation Stadium for one last time this season, with their pride well in tact.
There was nothing to be embarrassed about its 1-1 draw on Thursday with Mohun Bagan, one of the most glamorous teams in Indian football and a contender for the I-League title. It was a fitting end to what has been a remarkable campaign on debut.
Gokulam may have finished only seventh eventually, but the team played some splendid and attacking football in the second half of the league. In that phase, it posted back-to-back wins over Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab, which went on to win the title.
One of the reasons for the transformation of Gokulam – which had been languishing at the bottom till recently – has been its Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka. He has an uncanny ability to move the net, too. He showed that once again, in the injury time of the opening half, as he scored his fourth goal for Gokulam in what was only his seventh start.
A long ball by Mudde Musa, another Ugandan, from near the centre line could not be cleared out of danger by the Bagan defence. K. Mohammed Rashid took advantage of that and his header found Kisekka, who volleyed it neatly from close to make it 1-1.
Bagan had taken the lead in the 25th minute through Aser Dipanda, who headed home off a rebound after Cameron Watson hit the crossbar. The goal was set up, along the right flank, by the hard-working Yuta Kinowaki and Akram Mograbi, who gave an excellent pass to Watson.
The second half also saw both the sides creating chances, but neither could convert. That meant Gokulam would finish with 20 points and Bagan 30. The Kolkatan team took the fourth place.
Gokulam FC Kerala 1 (Henry Kisekka 45+1) drew with Mohun Bagan 1 (Aser Dipanda 25).