Former champions and Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan AC rode on a Dipanda Dicka strike in the 70th minute to register their second win of the season over home side and I-League debutants Real Kashmir FC at the TRC Turf Ground in Srinagar on Tuesday.
The win takes the Mariners to second in the 12th I-League standings with eight points from four games and kept them unbeaten in the league. Real Kashmir FC, on the other hand, suffered their second defeat on the trot at home, keeping them on four points from a similar number of games and down to eighth place.
As suggested in pre-match reports both coaches took the opportunity to give first starts of the season to a few players, arguably to test them out before it comes to the business end of the league.
David Robertson of Real Kashmir FC handed first starts to as many as three players, Khalid Qayoom and Abhash Thapa in midfield and defence in place of Farhan Ganie and Brian Mascarenhas as well as playing Nagen Tamang as an extra midfielder in place of defender Muhammad Hammad.
Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty opted for just one change, giving defender Dalraj Singh a start in place of Kim Kima.
The game began in brilliant sunshine and to a packed house as has now become the norm at the TRC, but in spite of a lot of energy and commitment shown by both sides, there were no clear-cut chances created in the first 40 minutes of the game.
Mohun Bagan in particular despite having more possession, seemed to be finding it difficult coming to terms with the conditions and the pitch.
It was the hosts however which could be credited with the first chance of the half when Tamang’s free-kick in the 18th minute saw Scottish defender Mason Robertson meet the ball first with his head, but the timing of the connection made the ball lob over the Mohun Bagan goal.
Mohun Bagan then got their first chance In the 43rd minute, when Danish Farooq brought Cameroonian Dicka down in a dangerous position outside the Real Kashmir FC box. Ugandan Henry Kisseka’s effort from the setpiece was brilliant but missed by a whisker.
The second half witnessed a more frantic start and Real Kashmir FC, in particular, began with a lot more purpose.
In the 53rd minute, after Sourav Das for Mohun Bagan penetrated past three Real Kashmir FC players into the box but could not make much headway beyond that, Ivorian Gnohere Krizo’s long-range effort for Kashmir went just wide.
Then Dicka in the 60th minute, saw a header go just wide after Abhishek Ambekar had put in a cross from the left flank.
The Cameroonian was not to be denied however and struck in the 70th minute to give Mohun Bagan the lead. Kisseka it was who got hold of the ball on the left flank and found his strike mate in between Real Kashmir FC defenders Ravanan and Loveday with a wonderful cross. Dicka made no mistake with his header slotting the ball into the back of the net, wrong-footing keeper Bilal in the process.
Kisseka himself then got a chance to double the lead in the 78th minute, when after combining brilliantly with the goalscorer Dicka, he found himself on the end of a cross in front of the goalkeeper, but the coach’s son Mason made an important timely intervention.
David Robertson had played all his cards bringing in Brian Mascarenhas in place of Nagem Talang at left wing-back for more purposeful crosses as well Nadong Bhutia in the strike force and Farhan Ganie in midfield and also pushed Mason forward in the last gasp effort. The defender even created a few good openings, but it was too late perhaps.
In the 63rd minute, Shankarlal brought in William Lalnunfela in place of Pintu Mahata who had an off–day and Nagem Tamang also went out for Real Kashmir FC with Brian Mascarenhas coming in.
Hero of the Match Dicka, the top goal scorer of the I-League for the past two seasons, scored his third of this campaign on the day to earn the victory in front of 12,760-strong home supporters. He got a well-deserved rest with just under five minutes to go and Shankarlal bolstered his midfield bringing in Shilton D’Silva. He even provided game time to William Lalnunfela, bringing him on in the 63rd minute replacing Pintu Mahata, who had an off day.
William was again replaced in the dying minutes with new recruit Abinash Ruidas with the game all but sewn up.