August 17, 2019 10:42:19 pm
Continuing their fairytale run, Real Kashmir FC put up yet another dogged display as they held Indian Super League side FC Goa to a goalless draw to set up a semi-final date with local giants Mohun Bagan in the 129th Durand Cup here on Saturday.
Both teams created a flurry of chances on a soggy surface which wasn’t conducive for good football but none managed to open their account. Real Kashmir needed a draw to enter last four and they topped Group C with seven points — two wins and a draw.
On a day of missed chances, Real Kashmir’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa was the star as he thwarted some fine attempts from the developmental outfit of FC Goa.
The David Robertson-coached side will face Mohun Bagan in the semifinals at the Salt Lake Stadium on August 21, seven months after they defeated local heavyweights 2-1 at the same venue to finish third in the I-League.
“We dedicate each of our wins to Kashmir where the club belongs to. This is for peace in the region — that’s what we all want,” team co-owner Sandeep Chattoo told PTI, confident that his side can beat Mohun Bagan again.
“I’m sure we will do it again this time. It’s a fantastic journey. Winning second division, then finishing third in our debut I-League season with a game in hand, that too a home game against East Bengal played in New Delhi after the Pulwama attacks,” he recalled.
“We regrouped here and played the Durand Cup without any practice, and without some of the players knowing each other, and simultaneously the situation back home. It was a very fulfilling experience, seeing the team together, play so well despite all adversities. It’s really fantastic to reach this stage,” Chattoo said.
Mohun Bagan pipped Indian Navy by a solitary goal from their Spaniard recruit Fran Gonzalez in the 58th minute to conclude their group B campaign with three wins in a row.
Real Kashmir manager Yasir Malik too echoed team’s co-owner and said the win was for people back home.
“We don’t want to involve politics but this win is for the family members back home and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are excited to make the semifinals,” an elated Malik said.
Fighting all odds in the aftermath of the scrapping of Article 370, the Real Kashmir players assembled for the first time this season at their team hotel in Kalyani, about 60 kilometres from Kolkata.
With a lockdown in the Valley, the team was devoid of any practice and the worse was in store as the team members could not reach out to their respective families due to the imposition of section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure there.
It was only on the Eid when the team members managed to speak to their family via team co-owner Sandeep Chattoo’s phone.
“Everyone is fine back home and players are a bit relaxed after talking to their family members. But the network has not restored fully. We all stay in far-off places and nobody’s phone network is restored,” he said.
The team manager blamed the ground condition for not being able to score a winning goals.
Local boy Ritwik Das got the first chance of the match in the sixth minute but his header went over horizontal.
In the 37th minute, Gnohere Krizo set up a fine ball to Singam Subhash Singh but he shot it high in the 37th minute.
In the 71st minute, the Goans had a fine long-range attempt by Leander D’ Cunha but only to be blocked by an alert Phurba under the bar.
In the 73rd minute, Subash surged from the left flank but was blocked by the opposition goalkeeper for a corner.
Real Kashmir’s star striker Danish Farooq got a fine opportunity in the 64th minute but his header went straight into the hands of the opposition goalkeeper.
FC Goa had their best chance in the 23rd minute when Liston Colaco ran down from the left flank and set it up for Lalawmpuia but his shot hit the woodwork followed by a goalline save from Khalid Qayoom.
Earlier, reigning ISL champions Bengaluru FC, who were fielding a reserve side, held Jamshedpur FC 3-3 in a dramatic finish in the first match at the Saltlake Stadium.
Trailing 1-3 till the regulation time, Suresh Singh Wangjam converted two penalty kicks in the second and fifth minute of injury time to secure one point.
Vimal Kumhar (second) drew first blood for Jamshedpur FC before Leon Augustine (45th) equalised for BFC.
Aakash Dave (51st) and Nabin Rana (80th) then made it 3-1 in favour of the Jamshedpur before BFC turned it around.
The result, however, was inconsequential as East Bengal had topped group A to make it to the semifinals.
At the Sailen Manna Stadium in Howrah, Chennaiyin FC and TRAU FC were awarded one point each as the match was abandoned due to force majeure.
The former ISL champions, CFC, were leading 1-0 on Friday when the match was stopped in the 15th minute because of thunderstorm. But the match could not be held Saturday as well and it was declared force majeure.
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