GANGTOK, SIKKIM: Sikkim Himalayan FC edged past Gokulam Kerala Reserves 3-2 in their quarter-final clash of the 39th Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok on Thursday.
Gokualm twice took the lead through Lalrinzuala Hauhnar and Lalliansanga but Sikkim Himalayan showed great fighting spirit and rode on Uttam Rai’s brace to claim their place in the semifinals of the competition.
Gokulam’s plan of attack was fairly straight-forward with a solid back-line, some man-marking of the particularly problematic opponents and an aim to try and use the speed of Lalliansanga and Lalrinzuala to try and penetrate into the final third.
It’s a plan of attack which seemed to work reasonably well as Gokulam made several decent attacks however Sikkim Himalayan were by far the more dominant side across the course of the first-half with poor finishing proving their weakness.
Despite Sikkim Himalayan’s dominance, Gokulam caught the home side off guard in the 41st minute with a quick counter-attack which saw Lalrinzuala run behind the Sikkim Himalayan defence to put his side in front.
Nonetheless, Gokulam’s joy was short-lived as Sikkim Himalayan equalized just two minutes later when John Kane whipped in a corner which is initially saved by Gokualm goalkeeper Satyajit Bordoloi but Uttam pounced on the second ball to smash it into the roof of the net.
Sikkim Himalayan’s spirits were lifted by the goal and they played out the final moments of the first-half with a lot of energy, which they brought with them when they returned from the break.
But they weren’t the only ones, Gokualm threw everything they had to impose their will on their opponents during the early stages of the second-half before reclaiming the lead in the 48th minute after Stephen Abeiku rounded Sikkim Himalayan goalkeeper Urgen Pintso and after anticipating a challenge from his fellow Ghanaian compatriot Eric Amoah he laid it for Lalliansanga who finished into an unguarded net.
However, Sikkim Himalayan never once looked like giving up as the home side continued to put pressure on the Gokulam back-line and were finally rewarded following a defensive error on the part of the Malabarians as Eugene Nimako equalized in the 55th minute.
It proved the confidence boost Sikkim Himalayan needed, while having the opposite effect on Gokulam. The chances for Sikkim Himalayan started flowing and they deservedly took the lead in the 60th minute when Uttam struck from close range to give Sikkim Himalayan the lead.
The match started to become a little tenser as the clock counted down with Gokulam showing great determination in their pursuit of an equalizer, while Sikkim Himalayan remained solid at the back.
Gokulam, to their credit, never gave up but it appeared as if getting on the score sheet just wasn’t to be for the side today with every shot went anywhere but on target as Sikkim Himalayan held on on for a well-deserved win.
Sikkim Himalayan will face Royal FC in the first semifinal on November 9.