Ludhiana, Jan 20 (IANS) A Dipanda Dicka brace helped Punjab FC register a 3-1 victory over Gokulam Kerala FC at the Guru Nanak Stadium here on Monday.
Sergio Barboza Jr. broke the deadlock in the first-half stoppage time before a Henry Kisekka goal drew the visitors level in the 52nd minute. Dipanda Dicka restored Punjab's advantage via a free-kick in the 64th minute, before adding his second in stoppage time to seal the three points in emphatic fashion.
The visitors didn't waste a minute in making their intentions clear, as it took them only 20 seconds after kick-off to rattle the woodwork. Marcus Joseph went on to have a crack from distance, but was denied by a fully stretched Kiran Limbu, who did well to get a fingertip and parry it onto the frame of the goal.
Much against the run of play, Punjab took the lead in the first minute of first-half stoppage time. A Cavin Lobo strike from the distance hit Dipanda Dicka on the way, who knew nothing about it, but the deflection fell kindly to Sergio Barboza Jr., who made no mistake in squaring it past the keeper.
In the second half, Gokulam stuck to their game plan and were rewarded early, in the 52nd minute. It was yet another exquisite set-piece from Joseph, which found Kisekka. He received it with a deft first touch and hammered it goalwards with his second, as his effort ricocheted off the crossbar and went in.
The hosts earned a free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box, yet again in total contrast to the run of play. Dipanda Dicka stepped up and did just enough to get it up and over the wall, leaving Ubaid CK in goal stranded to restore his side's advantage.
Punjab put the cherry on the icing on the top by adding a third in the first minute of stoppage time. With three minutes to go, Ubaid CK made a catastrophic error with the ball at his feet. With Dicka lurking, the Kerala keeper tried to play smart by dribbling past him but his audacious attempt was made to pay, as Dicka snatched the ball from his feet and added a third goal to seal three points for Punjab.
Punjab remain on second place with 14 points, three behind leaders Mohun Bagan, while Gokulam remain on 10 points.