Real Kashmir FC, now playing like experienced settled sides, a far cry from the debutants tag, notched up a comfortable solitary-goal-victory over bottom-placed Shillong Lajong FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong today.
Real Kashmir FC’s Zambian centre-back Aaron Katebe got the all-important winner in the 74th minute of the second half, propelling the ‘snow leopards’ to second on the points table, just five behind leaders Chennai City FC after both have played 13 games each.
To begin with, both managers David Robertson and Alison Kharyntiew made two changes and both coincidentally in the midfield positions. Real Kashmir FC started Khalid Qayoom and Nagen Tamang in place of Farhan Ganie and Danish Farooq while Shillong Lajong FC rested leader of the pack Samuel Lalmuanpia and Sheen Stevenson, bringing in Hnamte and Phrangki Buam in their place.
Honours were even in the first half with Shillong Lajong FC’s Red Devils dominating possession as also having the best looks at goal. Samuel Lyngdoh’s volley as early as in the fifth minute sailed over the goal.
The young hosts were not able to convert any of their interesting moves however and were made to pay for their discretion in the second half.
Just after David Robertson effected a double substitution in the second half, bringing in Gnohere Krizo and Danish Farooq for Koffi Tetteh and Qayoom, Kashmir went ahead from a setpiece.
Surchandra Singh floated the ball across the goal away from the far post from a corner, to which Loveday Okechukwu rose the tallest to direct a header back towards the centre of the goal. Zambian Katebe, Loveday’s partner at centre-back, was lurking around and slotted his header into the Shillong Lajong FC net.
Real Kashmir FC took control of proceedings from there on and Mason Robertson took a thunderous shot on the turn from the top of the box in the 81st minute, which hit the upright after it was brilliantly palmed away by keeper Lachempa.
Robertson then missed another couple of clear chances and in the end, Kashmir had to be satisfied with the 1-0 scoreline.
For Shillong Lajong FC, the only consolation was the Hero of the Match award bagged by keeper Phurba Lachempa for his vital contributions, without which the scoreline could have been different.