Kashmir chill fails to dampen Mohun Bagan’s spirits…
Kibu Vicuna’s men hardly put a foot wrong in the entire 90 minutes and apart from a brief period in the second half they were the more dominant force.
The Spanish coach made two changes since their last home win against Gokulam Kerala. Dhanachandra Singh replaced a suspended Gurjinder Kumar and Papa Diawara made his debut in green and maroon colours. Whereas, Real Kashmir coach David Robertson did not wish to tinker with the winning combination that helped them clinch the three points against Chennai City FC in their previous match.
Right from the first whistle, Mohun Bagan showed that they did not come to Kashmir to eke out a point from a difficult fixture but to churn out a win. The visitors had more possession, more shots and if they had converted their half-chances the three points could have been sealed in the first half itself.
All eyes were on Diawara but the Senegalese had a rather muted first half. Playing as a lone striker, he hardly troubled Loveday Okechukwu. Just after the half-hour mark, Fran Gonzalez lobbed a ball from the edge of the penalty box over Kashmir’s defence for Diawara, but the striker was a tad bit late to react and even his out-stretched leg could not help him get a touch on the ball.
Gonzalez continued to be in the thick of action and could have given his side the lead in the 38th minute only if he had kept his header on target after connecting well to a corner floated by Joseba Beitia.
Whereas, Kashmir could hardly venture into the attacking third and mostly had their backs pinned on the wall. Bagan’s SK Sahil was playing a pivotal role in midfield in intercepting and breaking down their counter-attacks.
Kallum Higginbotham and Mason Robertson showed no co-ordination whatsoever in the attacking third and credit must be given to the defensive organisation of the visitors.
After the break, Real Kashmir came out of the tunnel with more intent and purpose. Although Bagan were getting more touches on the ball, the snow leopards looked more threatening on the counter. In the 49th minute, Danis Farooq set up Bazie Armand inside the box but the Ivorian rifled his shot over the crossbar after wrong-footing Morante with a quick turn.
But the most significant chance for Kashmir came in the 65th minute. Robertson’s header from a Higginbotham free-kick looked destined to ripple the net but was tipped over the crossbar by an acrobatic Shankar Roy under the sticks.
When it seemed that Kashmir had got the game by the scruff of its neck Mohun Bagan scored twice in succession. A long throw-in into the box from Dhanachandra was cushioned in the way of Beitia by Daniel Cyrus and the Spaniard wrapped his laces around the ball to give his side the lead.
Kashmir were yet to settle down after conceding when Nongdamba Naorem found the net with a first touch finish after Britto PM laid him off.
The hosts were desperate to reduce the deficit and Krizo came close to nick one back in the 86th minute but was denied by the woodwork.
More to follow…