Panchkula (Haryana): RoundGlass Punjab FC registered a hard-fought 1-0 win against Gokulam Kerala FC in their I-League 2022-23 fixture on a chilly and foggy Wednesday evening at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula, Haryana.
Luka Majcen, formerly of Gokulam, scored the decisive goal of the match deep in the second half, sending the Punjab side to second place on the league standings with 17 points from eight matches -- two points behind Sreenidi Deccan, who have 19 points after playing nine matches so far.
As the match inched closer to the final whistle, the hosts found a breakthrough goal in the 75th minute. Ajay Chhetri's free-kick from the left was headed goalwards by Majcen and found the net after a slight deflection. The Slovenian's celebration was a muted one as a mark of respect for his former side, with whom he won the league title last season.
Earlier, the first half began in a cagey manner with chances few and far between, typical of two sides who have been miserly in defence this season.
Gokulam created the first opening in the 13th minute, as VS Sreekuttan's cross from the left was collected by keeper Kiran Limbu. Two minutes later, Pranjal Bhumij had a glorious chance to score for the home team after a well-worked corner routine but could not place his shot on target.
Majcen, making his return to the Punjab starting line-up, miscued a tough volley in the 33rd minute. He almost turned provider four minutes after, chesting down a pass for an onrushing Freddy Lallawmawma, whose volleyed shot flew just over the bar.
Sreekuttan had another shy at goal from 20 yards out in the 41st minute, which was wide of the target as the teams entered the break with the scoreboard goalless.
Two minutes after the restart, Bhumij had one more good opportunity after being found in the penalty area by Krishnananda Singh but could not find the target.
At the hour mark, both sides remained locked in their tussle and clear chances were still hard to come by. Shijin T created an opening in the 65th minute after collecting a cross from the right flank but was denied by a well-timed tackle by Adnan Secerovic.
Sreekuttan almost equalised only two minutes later with a powerful drive from range, which Limbu punched out for a corner. Majcen volleyed a shot from a tight angle in the 81st minute, which landed on top of the net.
The visitors pressed forward in search of the equaliser and threw men forward incessantly. With a minute left to play, substitute Daniel Lalhlimpuia almost made it two for Punjab on a counter attack but could not make a clean connection with his shot. The hosts saw out the game safely in the end, bagging all three points.