AFC Cup: Gokulam Kerala lose to Bashundhara Kings defeat, campaign ends

Kolkata: Reigning I-League champions Gokulam Kerala suffered a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Bangladesh's Bashundhara Kings who kept their AFC Cup knockout stage hopes alive here on Tuesday.

Captain Robinho was outstanding for the Bangladeshi champions, scoring one brilliant goal and setting up another, but they'll need to wait for the result of the later match between ATK Mohun Bagan and Maziya Sports & Recreation for their fate to be determined once and for all.

With all four teams in the group starting the final match-day on three points, both Gokulam Kerala and Bashundhara had all to play for and both went close to scoring within five minutes, with Robinho seeing an effort deflected wide at one end, and Jithin MS going close at the other.

But the Bangladeshi side took the initiative from then on, racking up 14 shots to three in the first half, seven of which were taken by the lesser-known Robinho, who forced Rakshit Dagar into a brilliant save on 27 minutes as pressure grew on the Kings' I-League opponents.

The Brazilian was virtually a one-man attack for Bashundhara at times, and the only surprise when he opened the scoring on 36 minutes was the brilliance of the strike, as he tricked his way past a pair of defenders before curling in a sensational 20-yard effort, which will surely rank among the goals of the tournament at season's end.

Their knockout stage hopes were further boosted when Robinho turned provider, floating in a delightful cross from the left-hand side, with Marong's thumping header too much for Dagar to handle in the 54th minute.

Having started so brightly against ATK Mohun Bagan on match-day one, Gokulam Kerala's campaign now looked destined to end in disappointment, but they carved out a lifeline when Jourdain Fletcher arrowed a low strike into the net following Mohammed Jassim's cross with a quarter of an hour remaining.

With Fletcher hammering a free kick against the crossbar in the 90th minute, the Kerala side pushed hard for an equaliser, but their failure to find it signalled the end of their AFC Cup campaign. PTI

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