HERO I-LEAGUE: Kashmir face Bagan test as title race hots up

Kolkata, January 5, 2018: Mohun Bagan below Real Kashmir in the Hero I-League standings seems like an anomaly!

That may be true given Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty’s assessment: “Real Kashmir’s team confidence level is in a very good position because of the points on the league table. In the last two matches, they have won one and drawn the other game with big club teams. They have been performing pretty well.”

Kashmir have had a dream run in the Hero I-League so far. And victory at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) would take them within touching distance of second-placed Neroca FC.

The debutantes are on a six-game unbeaten streak with three of those wins coming away from home. Of course they did lose to Bagan in the previous leg at home…but that was in the past!

If rock-solid defending is the hallmark for Kashmir (the 1-1 draw against East Bengal at the VYBK is a good example) then the same cannot be said for Bagan.

“We have played Mohun Bagan in our TRC ground, but we didn’t do enough to get something from the game. We just hope we will be able to play well tomorrow again as we played the last match. It was the first time that many of our players are playing on such a big stage. Although Mohun Bagan have lost the last match when a team loses they do have a high possibility of bouncing back,” said David Robertson (coach, Real Kashmir).

“We are in good form. We have done a lot better than expected. Since March 2017 we haven’t lost a single away match, (but) at some point it will break. As long as we keep playing and fighting as we have been, then we have half a chance tomorrow. If you don’t keep eye on strikers of Mohun Bagan for full 90 minutes, they might cause a problem just like what happened in TRC ground. We are a big club. We’ve just got to continue defensively. We have been very good and we have to make sure to remain tight. We know it for sure that it is going to be a tough game,” he added.

While Kashmir has conceded only six times so far Bagan has leaked in twice the number of goals. The duo of Kofi Tetteh and Gnohere Krizo may run rings around the home team who welcome back Sony Norde.

“Sony Norde is fit and will be there in first 18. We will be playing tomorrow’s match for winning the three points. Kashmir is a very good team, especially their foreigners – very strong physically as well as technically too and the local players who are also working as a team, bringing them to the top of the league. We have been showing a positive attitude towards improving in both attacking as well as in defence too,” said Chakraborty.

Bagan need Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisekka (the duo have a combined total of eight goals) to fire while Kashmir may play the waiting game.

Though Kashmir have Bilal Khan (goalkeeper) and Loveday, Katebe, Mason Roebrtson, Dharmaraj Ravanan and Abhash Thapa (all defenders) still write Bagan off at your own peril on Sunday!