Zikahi Dodoz scored twice as Aizawl FC rallied to beat Gokulam Kerala FC 3-1 to end their I-League campaign on a winning note in Aizawl in Aizawl on Friday.
Mahmood Al Ajmi put Gokulam ahead by converting a penalty kick in the 25th minute but Aizawl came back strongly with the Ivory Coast striker Dodoz scoring in the 59th and 74th minutes before Lalkhawpuiamawia (78th) took the game out of the reach of the Kerala side.
Last season, Aizawl won the I-League in Indian football’s one of the most incredible stories but this time their campaign lacked the spark. They had a string of poor shows, which led to the sacking of Portuguese coach Paulo Menezes midway the season, before Santosh Kashyap took charge.
They were out of contention for the title long time back this season.
With the win, Aizawl rose to the fifth spot on the table with 24 points from 18 matches.
The home side made three changes as Santosh Kashyap handed goalkeeper Lalawmpuia his first start of the season. Masih Saighani and Albert were slotted in place of Lalthathanga Khawlhring and Albert Zohmingmawia. Sticking to a 3-5-2 formation, Lalkhawpuimawia and Leonce Dodoz led the forward line.
Bino George made only one change form their last game as Kivi Zhimoni made way for Salman K. Henry Kisseke and Salman K led the line in Aizawl supported by Bahrain midfield maestro Mahmood Al Ajmi.
The sound of beating drums echoed across the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium as Aizawl’s Red Army stood loyally behind their team. Dodoz was presented with the first chance of the match but the forward was denied by Bilal Khan’s excellent save.
Gokulam replied the favour a few minutes later as Rashin’s long ranger was thwarted by their debutant goalie Lalawmpuia. Bino George’s boys started to dominate the proceedings and they were unlucky as Jayaraj’s curling effort flew just wide of the target.
Kissaka’s shot from inside the box struck Kimkima arm and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Al Ajmi stepped up and made no mistake, scoring his third goal of the season.
Albert had a wonderful chance to level the game after he was released by Andrei’s brilliant pass but the winger could not find the back of the net as goalkeeper Bilal stood firm.
At the stroke of the hour-mark, Bilal was in the receiving end when he slipped Albert’s cross a few minutes later which fell to Dodoz and the striker found the back of the net from four yards out.
The goal proved to be vital as Aizawl retrieved the rhythm of their game. Bino Geroge introduced striker Kivi Zhimomi in place of Al Ajmi but it was the home side who went all guns blazing ahead of their colourful home crowd.
Dodoz dodged past Rashid and wrong-footed the goalkeeper to rattle the net once again in the 74th minute.
Aizawl scored their third goal of the match four minutes later as the ‘Reds’ finally converted from a corner. Khawlhring’s corner was weakly fisted away by Bilal before it fell right in the path of Khawpuimawia who hammered it past Gokulam defenders to notch his third goal of the season.
Gokulam, who have garnered 20 points from 17 matches, will play their final game of the season when they host Mohun Bagan on March 6.