In an unfortunate turn of events, Gokulam Kerala FC, the I-League winners, were eliminated from the AFC Cup 2022 after losing 2-1 to Bangladeshi side Bashundhara Kings at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday. Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan progressed to the next round after win over Maziya.
Bashundhara Kings scored two goals via Robinho (26') and Nuha Marong (54'), with Jamaican striker Jourdaine Fletcher (75') pulling one back for Gokulam. After two matches, all four clubs in Group D - Gokulam, Kings, ATK Mohun Bagan, and Maziya SRC – were equal on three points apiece and needed to win Wednesday's encounter to advance. Only the group leader will progress to the semi-finals of the inter-zonal playoffs.
The Bangladeshi team exhibited a greater desire to win the game, but India's Gokulam Kerala, who were playing their maiden AFC Cup campaign this season, had the first significant chance. Emil Benny's dangerous through pass sent Jithin MS through just four minutes in, and he had only the opposition goalie to beat. Jithin attempted a chip but failed to hit the shot on target.
Bashundhara Kings grabbed control of the game as the game went on, led by Brazilian forward Robinho. Rakshit Dagar of Gokulam Kerala made a spectacular save in the 26th minute to keep out Robinho's stinging long-range drive, but there was nothing he could do to prevent the Brazilian from converting a goal six minutes later.
Robinho produced some great agility to find himself a yard inside the Gokulam box after latching onto a Sohail Rana ball, before smashing his effort into the top corner to give Bashundhara Kings a 1-0 lead. The Indian team could have fallen farther behind had Robinho been given more room around the Gokulam box to take his long-range attempts, but they managed to maintain the deficit at 1-0 at half-time.
However, 10 minutes after the restart, Oscar Bruzon's team extended their lead. Robinho breezed past Rishad before lofting in a beautiful cross for Nuha Marong, who tucked it past Dagar to put the game out of reach. Gokulam was obliged to go on the attack after the second goal. Gokulam got a lifeline in the 75th minute when Jourdaine Fletcher converted a Mohamed Jassim ball after Aminou Bouba's header struck the side netting.
In pursuit of more, the Indian side threw prudence to the wind and launched endless streams of strikes. Jourdaine Fletcher came close to tying the game with a free kick in the final seconds of normal time, but Bashundhara goalkeeper Anisur Rahman saved him with a fantastic fingertip save.
Bashundhara Kings won the match 2-1, but the Bangladeshi team will have to wait for the outcome of the encounter between ATK Mohun Bagan and Maziya later in the day to see if they advance to the inter-zonal playoff semis.