I-League: Real Kashmir look to stay in title race as they take on Mohun Bagan
By AIFF Media Team
Kolkata, Jan 05: In what will be a key game in terms of deciding which half of the points table both teams eventually end up on, Mohun Bagan host a resurgent Real Kashmir in a return leg fixture at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Sunday, January 6, 2019.
The match is set to kick off at 2 pm IST, ensuring that Indian fans get a wholesome dose of Sunday football, with the big AFC Asian Cup opener featuring the Blue Tigers taking on Thailand, slated for later in the evening.
The Kolkata giants and former champions have flattered to deceive this 12th Hero I-League edition, picking up 15 points from their 10 first round games, finding themselves in an unprecedented sixth position on India’s top flight football league table.
Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said, “Real Kashmir’s team confidence level is in a very good position because of the points on the league table. In the last two matches, they have won one and drawn the other game with big club teams. They have been performing pretty well.”
Debutants Kashmir, on the other hand, are having a dream run and if they win on Sunday, they will find themselves level on points with second-placed side Neroca FC once again.
The Snow Leopards have been superb on the road and go into Sunday’s game unbeaten over the last six matches, the last three of them being away from home.
In fact, the last time they were beaten was at home by Mohun Bagan, but much has transpired since then.
Kashmir have now been in Kolkata for some length of time and in fact have played more recently than Mohun Bagan at the VYBK, eeking out a 1-1 draw against their arch city rivals Quess East Bengal.
Kashmir coach David Robertson has built his team on the foundation of a rock-solid defence, the very aspect of play that Mohun Bagan gaffer Sankarlal Chakraborty is losing his sleep on. Robertson said, “We have played Mohun Bagan in our TRC ground, but we didn’t do enough to get something from the game. We just hope we will be able to play well tomorrow again as we played the last match.
“It was the first time that many of our players are playing on such a big stage. Although Mohun Bagan have lost the last match when a team loses they do have a high possibility of bouncing back,” said Robertson.
As a result, Kashmir has let in just six goals till date while their Sunday opponents have conceded exactly double that number in the same number of games.
The Bagan defense will be up against it yet again as Kashmir’s new signing Kofi Tetteh is playing in tandem with Ivorian Gnohere Krizo inn attack. The Kashmir Coach Robertson said, “We are in good form. We have done a lot better than expected. Since March 2017 we haven’t lost a single away match, (but) at some point it will break. As long as we keep playing and fighting as we have been, then we have half a chance tomorrow. If you don’t keep eye on strikers of Mohun Bagan for full 90 minutes, they might cause a problem just like what happened in TRC ground. We are a big club. We’ve just got to continue defensively. We have been very good and we have to make sure to remain tight. We know it for sure that it is going to be a tough game.”
On the plus side, however, Bagan will once again have the services of their talismanic attacker Sony Norde, who was out injured recently.
“Sony Norde is fit and will be there in first 18. We will be playing tomorrow’s match for winning the three points. Kashmir is a very good team, especially their foreigners – very strong physically as well as technically too and the local players who are also working as a team, bringing them to the top of the league. We have been showing a positive attitude towards improving in both attacking as well as in defence too.”
The pressure therefore on Sunday will also be on the likes of Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisekka to deliver goals again. The pair has been consistently scoring; they have eight between themselves and have set others up as well.
Kashmir, on the other hand, will aim for a clean sheet first, and then take the opportunities if they present themselves, as they have been doing so very well.
In a solid keeper like Bilal Khan and the likes of Loveday, Katebe, Mason Roebrtson, Dharmaraj Ravanan and Abhash Thapa, in front of him, Kashmir will be a tough nut to crack for Bagan without creativity. It’s going to be a big game and it is surely going to be very competitive at the VYBK on Sunday.