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Srinagar, February 24, 2020
As the Hero I-League 2019-20 returned to the beautiful TRC Ground in Srinagar, home side Real Kashmir gave 10,152 attending home fans a satisfactory outing with a narrow 1-0 victory over the Indian Arrows on Monday .
Ivorian midfielder Bazie Armand scored the all-important winner in the 70th minute to help his side get back in the mix with 18 points from 12 games now, thereby moving them again into the Top 5 on the points table. The Indian Arrows remain at the bottom of the pile with eight points from 13 games.
Both sides went into the match on the back of losses in their previous games. This probably made both coaches ring in changes as Kashmir’s David Robertson made as many as three — bringing in Ritwik Kumar Das, Englishman Kallum Higginbotham and defender Novin Gurung, in place of Dalraj, Brian Mascarenhas and Danish Farooq.
Arrows head coach Venkatesh Shanmugham played Harmanpreet upfront and Ricky Shabong in midfield. Vikram Pratap was not on the bench and Telem Suranjit Singh also did not start.
Zambian Aaron Katebe created the first chance of the game for Real Kashmir — as he twisted and turned past a couple of Arrows defenders to create a chance for himself from close, but his right-footed toe-poke was dealt with by Arrows custodian Jongte.
Then, Robin Singh had a couple of chances. Mason Robertson showed great vision to put him through on one occasion and then Higginbotham found him with a trademark floater but much could not come out of those opportunities.
The best chance of the half though went to the Arrows about four minutes before it ended. It was a lovely team move initiated by Hendry Antonay from the left flank. He played in Ricky Shabong, who ran forward with purpose to put a lovely through-ball onto Harmanpreet, who had made the run to his left. Harman was soon one-on-one with the keeper from a tight angle but missed the target.
Katebe found a second good chance to score, this time in the early stages of the second half. From a Higginbotham corner, the ball dropped invitingly for him as he came rushing in but the Zambian failed to connect.
The Snow Leopards finally broke through in the 70th minute. Mason Robertson hurled a high, long and powerful throw-in from the right flank. It was allowed to bounce just outside the six-yard box and looped high again going across goal. Bazie Armand, who had been pushing forward in search of a goal, found the opportunity to use his height and strength to rise above the keeper and defenders to head in.
Bazie, since coming over to Srinagar, has made it quite a habit of scoring important and match-winning goals over the past two seasons and today was going to be no different.
Coach Robertson replaced Robin Singh with Danish Farooq with just over 10 minutes to go. Minutes later, however, it was his son Mason who went on a delightful run, slicing open the Arrows defence to unleash a crisp right-footer on target, only for keeper Jongte to repel it with a good save.
That was the last good chance of the game as the Arrows kept fighting but could not find the breakthrough. Real Kashmir, from here, now have six more home games to go.