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I-League 2018-19, Minerva Punjab FC vs Real Kashmir FC: 5 talking points as Kashmir makes history

Real Kashmir's Starting XI against Minerva Punjab (Image: AIFF Media)
Real Kashmir's Starting XI against Minerva Punjab (Image: AIFF Media)
Aravind Suchindran

October 31, which is actually Halloween, is a red-letter day for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Indian football as Real Kashmir managed to beat defending champions Minerva Punjab in their first I-League ever, at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula.

Gnohere Krizo's 74th-minute strike gave David Robertson's team all three points against Paul Munster's boys.

Minerva Punjab, who drew their opening game against Churchill Brothers, suffered due to the inefficiency of their strikers and conservative approach to the game. They have just one point in two games.

Even though Real Kashmir were the ones who played defensively, the visitors came with a plan and were happy to snatch one point from the game.

But as things panned out, they walked away with three instead, teaching Punjab a lesson in their first I-League game itself.


#1 Kashmir makes its presence felt in India's top division

This game marked Real Kashmir's first game in the I-League and they really made their presence felt in the Indian footballing community by stunning the defending champions Minerva Punjab.

With only two players from J&K (Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed) making it big so far, it is a breath of fresh air that there's a club from that state playing in the top flight.

Wadoo is the only one from Kashmir to have gone on to represent the Indian national football team, while Ishfaq Ahmed turned out for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL).

What's more, most of the Indian players in the squad hail from that state and it's comforting to see that they were all given playing chances in the I-League.

Muhammad Hammad is a Kashmiri who started for RKFC. The other Kashmiris on the line-up were Farhan Ganie and Danish Farooq.

Before the game, RKFC coach David Robertson said the prospect of playing the defending champions in their first I-League game was exciting and quite unexpectedly, Real Kashmir proved to be the better team on the day.

“We have been waiting for five months for this day to come. We are very excited to face the defending champions as well as we have to remember of the home ground advantage they have. We have a young and confident team with experienced players as well as some local Kashmiri who have played in I-League before," Robertson had said.

#2 No Plan B for Minerva Punjab

Real Kashmir's defenders came prepared for dealing with the threat posed by Minerva Punjab's attackers
Real Kashmir's defenders came prepared for dealing with the threat posed by Minerva Punjab's attackers

Minerva had only one way to score and they tried that throughout the match - from the wings. William Asiedu and Makan Winkle Chote were good at the wings but their game became too predictable for Real Kashmir.

All Kashmir had to do was to ensure that their central defenders were good in the air and Loveday Enyinnaya and Mason Robertson stood tall against the Minerva attack.

Lancine Toure was the only one threatening from a set-piece for Punjab but RKFC had him covered.

#3 Real Kashmir make best use of chances

Real Kashmir's staff celebrate after the team took the lead against Minerva Punjab
Real Kashmir's staff celebrate after the team took the lead against Minerva Punjab

David Robertson's side created few chances during their encounter and ended up thwarting the Minerva attack for long periods of time. But their forwards were clearly more effective and this is what worked for them against the favourites.

Punjab had a couple of shots on target and even hit the crossbar twice, but Kashmir, in a single moment, scored through Gnohere Krizo to take three points from the game.

Krizo controlled the ball off a free-kick, turned and shot into the goal to score RKFC's first I-League goal.

About eight minutes after they took the lead, Kashmir could have gone ahead but Katebe's dangerous shot was blocked by Punjab goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy.

Compared to Punjab, Kashmir were tactically efficient. David Robertson sent in Vicky Meitei, a midfielder, for a defender, Hammad, and things changed for Kashmir after the attacking option was added.

#4 Real Kashmir's real hero - Bilal Khan

Bilal Khan, Real Kashmir's goalkeeper
Bilal Khan, Real Kashmir's goalkeeper

Real Kashmir's goalkeeper was the last line of defence against Punjab and he justified that tag by keeping a clean sheet in RKFC's first I-League game.

Bilal denied William Opoku in the 15th minute when Amandeep Singh found the Minerva Punjab striker with a brilliant long ball.

Immediately into the second half, Bilal got his fingertips to Alexandre's effort and drifted it above the bar.

He had to save another within three minutes and this time, it was Opoku's shot from inside the box.

#5 Minerva Punjab and Chennaiyin FC - same story for I-League, ISL champions

Real Kashmir's Gnohere Krizo (right) with coach David Robertson (centre) after the I-League game against Minerva Punjab
Real Kashmir's Gnohere Krizo (right) with coach David Robertson (
centre
) after the I-League game against Minerva Punjab

There's a thing about these champions - they have remained the same wonderful team but the opponents around them have drastically upped their game to compete with them.

It took ISL champions Chennaiyin FC four matches to get a point, while Minerva Punjab, the I-League holders, have not scored a goal in two matches.

Champions need to understand that the opposition teams come better prepared and more determined to snatch a couple of points from them.

The sooner they stop underestimating other teams and prepare a Plan B, the faster they will be able to start winning again.

Edited by Alan John

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