Updated: January 5, 2020 9:04:07 pm
Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan registered a fluent 2-0 win over Real Kashmir FC (RKFC) in an away game to climb to the top of the Hero I-League table here on Sunday.
The game started at 11.30 am at the TRC ground because of biting cold, but the harsh weather conditions failed to stop the visitors from recording the victory.
After a barren first half, Joseba Beitia (71st minute) and Nongdamba Naorem (73rd) scored twice for the Kolkata giants in a span of two minutes, shattering the hopes of home fans.
The green and maroons had the lion’s share of possession and more shots on target but the home side had more attempts and five more corners in a game which could have gone either way.
— Hero I-League (@ILeagueOfficial) January 5, 2020
Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna started with newly-signed Senegalese striker Baba Diawara and brought in Dhanachandra Singh in the backline with Gurjinder Kumar, who was out suspended.
Scotsman David Robertson, the RKFC coach, however, preferred the same starting XI that won against reigning champions Chennai City in the previous game.
The visitors were strong from the starting whistle and notched up as many as three corners in the space of the first six minutes.
Talented winger Nongdamba Naorem then had his first chance of the game in the 22nd minute, but his left-footer from inside the Kashmir box failed to cause any problem for goalkeeper Phurba Lachempa.
Both sides got golden chances to score but the first half remained goalless.
In the second half, while Bagan continued to dominate possession, the home side had better scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes.
Bazie had a shot on the turn from deep inside the Bagan box in the 49th minute but the effort sailed over the crossbar.
Then Sankar Roy made the save of the game in the 65th minute to deny Mason Robertson, who attempted a header from close off a Higginbottom set piece.
By now, Kashmir had thrown in Ivorian striker Gnohere Krizo in the mix and had stepped up their attacks. However, it was the visitors from Kolkata who turned the match on its head within a space of two minutes.
First, off a long Dhanachandra Singh throw from the right-flank, Daniel Cyrus somehow managed to deflect the ball in the path of an onrushing Beitia.
Beitia positioned his body perfectly to meet the loose ball with a right-footed jab, which powered its way through to the Kashmir net. The ball went in off the keeper and Bagan were 1-0 ahead.
A couple of minutes later, another young Bagan talent S k Sahil showed outstanding vision and found substitute P M Britto run down that same flank with a wonderful through ball.
Britto rushed in to clear and floated the ball back in. Naorem, who had an outstanding game, was at the end of this one and blasted a perfectly-connected volley into the back of the net to hand Bagan a 2-0 lead.
Kashmir did make valiant attempts to come back and Loveday Okechukwu missed their best chance with less than five minutes to go. Krizo too had an attempt from close but to no avail.
Mohun Bagan have 10 points from five games, while Kashmir dropped to the eighth spot with five points from four games.
The Mariners will next host Indian Arrows on January 9 while the Snow Leopards will host Punjab FC one day later.
INDIAN ARROWS HOLD NEROCA
All India Football Federation’s developmental side Indian Arrows played out a 1-1 draw with NEROCA FC in the I-League here on Sunday.
Sushil Meitei gave the visitors the lead in the 24th minute before Vikram Partap Singh equalised for the hosts three minutes before the end of first half.
Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh retained the majority of his previous line-up, with only two changes in the form of Aman Chetri slotting into the front three ahead of Harmanpreet Singh and Bikash Yumnam starting at the back in place of Saurabh Meher.
Hoping for a repeat of their stellar performance against Churchill Brothers, coach Venkatesh stuck to his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation at the Tilak Maidan.
NEROCA head coach Gift Raikhan, on the other hand, opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Gaty Kouami was reinstated into the starting XI, forming a double pivot with Chanso Horam in the middle of the park. Khaiminthang Lhungdim served in the number ten role, with Boubacar Diarra as the lone striker upfront.
The match struggled for direction in the opening stages, with either of the sides struggling to retain possession for long.
The first real opening of the match fell to the Arrows in the 15th minute. A great through ball by Ayush Adhikari found Vikram Partap Singh, who had made a well-timed run, but was denied in the nick of time by a calculated tackle from Ousmane Diawara.
In the 24th minute, it was NEROCA who took the lead through a free-kick about 25 yards from goal. Sushil Meitei was on the other end of the set-piece and his effort went over the wall and into the bottom right corner, through the palms of Lalbikhlua Jongte.
The visitors almost doubled their lead four minutes later, this time through Boubacar Diarra. The Malian forward was at the right place to head a Meitei cross towards goal, but his effort flashed a whisker wide off the woodwork.
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