THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Lukman hat-trick powers Real Kashmir to see-saw victory over spirited NEROCA

Hero I-League match action between Real Kaschmir FC and NEROCA FC. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Hero I-League match action between Real Kaschmir FC and NEROCA FC. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

In the highest goal-scoring game of the Hero I-League so far, Real Kashmir FC defeated NEROCA FC 4-3 at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in Kalyani, West Bengal today (February 13, 2021). Real Kashmir FC rode Lukman Adefemi’s hat-trick to defeat the Manipuri side in a topsy-turvy match that saw NEROCA equalize after falling behind by two goals, only for Adefemi’s stunner in the second half to steal the show and hand three points to the Snow Leopards.

Real Kashmir had taken what seemed to be an unassailable lead, courtesy of two goals by Adefemi in the first half, coupled with a Mason Robertson strike. But NEROCA fought back through Varney Kallon, Khaiminthang Lhungdim, and substitute Songpu Singsit to equalize the deficit.

Disappointingly for Gift Raikhan’s men, Adefemi’s stunner in the second half proved to be the difference between the two sides as Real Kashmir go second in the Hero I-League with 13 points — one point behind league leaders RoundGlass Punjab FC, who have also played one game more.

There are hardly five goals seen in a match, let alone in one half of a game. When Real Kashmir FC clashed against NEROCA, the storyline was different altogether with both teams playing a high tempo game from the opening minutes. Five goals in a half is a staggering number, but with both contingents out to prove a point, goals came in plenty.

Though it was Real Kashmir FC who started the party in the 9th minute, when Lukman Adefemi latched on to a headed pass inside the box and headed home from close range to give the David Robertson-coached side a solitary goal advantage. Long balls seemed to be NEROCA’s area of concern and their defense, on multiple occasions, fluffed their clearances, only for goalkeeper Bishrojit Singh to keep them in the match.

In the 22nd minute, Danish Farooq was brought down inside the penalty box by a heavy Deepak Taklembam tackle and from the spot, Lukman Adefemi made no mistake to slot the ball in doubling the Snow Leopards’ lead. The first 25 minutes of the match belonged to Real Kashmir and at one point it looked like they would run away in the match after Bishrojit Singh made an amazing save to deny Lukman from close range in the 27th minute.

With Real Kashmir dominating possession, NEROCA had a rare chance. But, they made the most out of it. In the 29th minute, defender Varney Kallon connected from a Subash Singh corner kick and thumped his header into the back of the net to halve the deficit. However, there was more to the script.

In the 35th minute, Mason Robertson did exactly the same, albeit from a freekick. A long Sena Ralte free-kick found the defender inside the box and Robertson made no mistake to flick the ball home, making the scoreline read 3-1.

In added time at the end of the first half, NEROCA once again minimized their deficit. Haroon Amiri’s failed clearance off a long ball fell to Lhungdim, who smashed home from a first-time volley to make the score 3-2 at half-time.

Spurred by the late goal, NEROCA started the second half on an attacking note. The Gift Raikhan-coached side started to press higher up the pitch and man-marked the opposition forwards in an attempt to quell long balls. Their effort reaped dividends after the introduction of substitute Songpu Singsit.

In the 57th minute, a beautiful pass from Judah Garcia carved open Real Kashmir FC’s defence line and found Singsit racing towards the goal. With only the opposition custodian to beat, he showed great composure to slot the ball home and restore parity as the scoreline read 3-3.

The equalizer spurred NEROCA even more. The very next minute, Singsit was once again found inside the box by Garcia, but this time, his shot earned a good save by the opposition goalkeeper Mithun Samanta.

After the hour mark, there was another twist in the tale. In the 63rd minute, Lukam Adefemi completed his hat-trick after he latched on to a through-ball from the midfield and fired a rocket-of-a-shot from outside the box with his left boot to hand the lead back to the Snow Leopards, completing a ‘perfect hat-trick’ in the process.

Songpu Singsit came close to grabbing the equalizer, once again, in the 68th minute after his header on the first post was saved with ease, following a Subash Singh cross from the right flank.

Real Kashmir committed bodies in defence to safeguard their lead and dominated possession in the latter periods to keep the ball away from a hungry NEROCA, who were hunting for an equalizer. In the end, the Snow Leopards held onto the slender advantage and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read an astonishing 4-3.

(AIFF Media)