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Srinagar, March 4, 2020
Real Kashmir (RK) continued to make the most of their seven-game run at home, registering a textbook 1-0 victory over NEROCA at the TRC Turf Ground in Srinagar. Local boy, one of Kashmir’s own, Danish Farooq, scored what turned out to be the match-winner in the 42nd minute.
The result takes Real Kashmir to the third place on the Hero I-League standings with 22 points, while Neroca remain in the relegation spot with 15.
Tributes poured in from the stands and the Kashmir squad for their young midfielder Ritwik Kumar Das, who couldn’t be in action following the untimely death of his father. Chesterpoul Lyngdoh took his place in the XI, accounting for the only alteration David Robertson made to his line-up.
Gift Raikhan, on the other hand, reflected three changes. Chanso Horam and Zodingliana Ralte were reinstated in midfield, while Ronald Singh started ahead of Boubacar Diarra up front.
The hosts threatened early and had the better exchanges. The first knock arrived in the 7th minute, when Bazie Arman’s wayward clearance turned out to be a good cross-field delivery for Mason Robertson instead. The Scot latched onto it and went for the spectacular on the volley from the edge of the box, finding the side-netting.
A bizarre turn of events ensued four minutes later. Neroca’s Ousmane Diawara was shown a straight red. The Neroca players pleaded his cause and after a brief consultation with the assistant referee, the red card was overturned, much to Gift Raikhan’s relief.
Neroca did trouble the Kashmir backline on occasions. In the 20th minute, Pritam Singh made a good run and after seemingly running out of ideas, he squared it across for Zodingliana, who whipped in a low delivery across goal. Ronald Singh got his outstretched foot to the end of the cross but Kashmir keeper Phurba Lachenpa was alert to the danger and did well to keep it out.
The deadlock was broken in the 42nd minute, when Chesterpaul Lyngdoh’s cross found Danish Farooq completely unmarked and the local lad made no mistake with his headed finish it across goal to put his side ahead.
Danish could have made it two in the dying seconds of stoppage time but was denied by some fine goalkeeping. It was yet another cross-field delivery from Bazie Armand that created the opening, as Danish latched on to it and tried chipping keeper Bishorjit Singh, but to his credit, the Neroca custodian pulled off an outstanding double save – first, getting the sting away from the chip by going full-stretch and second, running back towards goal and palming it away, which turned out to be the last piece of action before the break.
The Snow Leopards remained in pursuit of a two goal cushion, but were denied by narrow margins. In the 52nd minute, Chesterpaul Lyngdoh made a good overlapping run, coming to Higginbotham’s aid who had been closed down by three orange shirts near the touchline.