I-League 2020-21: Gokulam Kerala crowned champions

Gokulam Kerala players lift the 2020-21 I-League trophy after beating fellow contenders TRAU 4-1 on the final day. AIFF

Gokulam Kerala have won I-League 2020-21 after a come-from-behind 4-1 win over Manipur's Tiddim Road Athletic Union at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan stadium in Kolkata. They are the first team from Kerala to win the I-League and will now get the chance to represent India in the AFC Cup 2021-22.

At the Salt Lake Stadium, in a match that kicked off simultaneously, Churchill Brothers beat RoundGlass Punjab 3-2. Having led 3-0 at halftime thanks to an early penalty from Luka Maicen and a brace from Clayvin Zuniga, Churchill had appeared to be in full control of the match. Punjab, though, mounted a comeback and got two goals back in a three-minute span past the hour mark through Joseba Beitia and Baba Diawara.

The TRAU v Gokulam match was an entertaining affair, with the latter controlling large swathes of the match In the first half, Bidhyasagar Singh's sensational 24th minute effort from outside the box was the difference. This was the league top-scorer's 12th goal of the season. At this stage, TRAU were set to be champions.

Gokulam equalised late on with a chipped freekick from Sharif Mukhammad in the 70th minute. Which is when the floodgates opened. Kerala's Emil Benny scored a lovely solo goal four minutes later before Denny Antwi added a third in the 77th minute, finishing a quick counter attack with a delectable chip. Defensive midfielder Mohammed Rashid made it four with the very last kick of the game (98th minute), pouncing on a loose ball in the box after yet another Gokulam attack.

Going into the final day, TRAU, Gokulam Kerala and Churchill Brothers had been tied on 26 points after 14 matches across phase 1 and phase 2 of the I-League.

Churchill had earlier dominated the first phase to go into the second with a four-point lead over their nearest opponent, while the other two had qualified fifth and sixth, six points behind. TRAU and Gokulam then went on an unbeaten run while Churchill lost their only two games of the season in the second phase.

The individual awards were also awarded at the victory ceremony --

Best goalkeeper: Kiran Limbu (RoundGlass Punjab)

Best defender: Hamza Kheir (Churchill Brothers)

Best Midfielder: Phalguni Singh (TRAU)

Top goalscorer- Bidyasagar Singh (TRAU)

Emerging player- Emil Benny (GKFC

Hero of the tournament- Bidyasagar Singh (TRAU)

Syed Abdul Rahim Best coach of the year award- Nandakumar Singh (TRAU)