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I-league: Snow Leopards roar to the top

Srinagar, Feb 6: Real Kashmir FC on Wednesday topped the table for the second time after trumping Gokulam Kerala FC with a solitary goal here at TRC ground amid heavy snowfall and freezing conditions.

With 32 points in 16 games, RKFC has kept itself in contention for the I- League title, which keeps hopes alive for the team to clinch trophy.

 

Prior to the match, snow leopards were treading behind Chennai City FC and Churchill brothers, who were holding first and second position with 29 and 30 points, respectively.

As predicted by the MeT department, the match day was dominated by the snowfall and rains, which apparently troubled players in passing the ball as well as the spectators whose number had decline considerably at the stadium.

The game started at 2pm and witnessed enough possession by the host team over Malabarians, who previously couldn’t fetch a victory again at snow leopards in Calicut.

RKFC Coach David Robertson preferred just single change by replacing Ritwik Das with Ivorian striker Gnohere Krizo.

On the other hand, Gokulam Kerala’s technical director Gift Raikhan made wholesale changes in the squad. Deepak K and Mehtab Singh slotted in at the back while Lalmuankima and Russel Alfred were chosen ahead of Suhair VP and Mudde Musa.

The first half of the game ended goalless though RKFC had many chances, which they failed to utilise till referee whistled for the 10 minute break.

In the seventh minute of the game, Mason Robertson could have got his name on the scoresheet when he sent a header assisted by Surchandra on target but was saved by Arnab Das Sharma.

The team couldn’t utilize another chance in 29th minute when an assist from Zambian defender Aron Kettebe ‘s assist to Mason Robertson landed into gloves of Sharma.

Similarly, in 32th second of the game, a corner from Surchandra hit the bar.

In the first 30 minutes, Gokulam were not allowed to a get a foothold in the match as Bazie Armand and Danish Farooq were orchestrating play at the centre of the park.

It was in the 51st minute of the game, Krizo broke the deadlock after latching in on the rebound following Farhan Ganie’s goal-bound shot.

The players were charged with enthusiasm and the team got many chances to net the ball which, however were equally deflected by the Gokulam defense side.

Captain and defender Loveday Enyinnaya was awarded Man of the Match for successfully defending against Gokulam strikers.
RKFC Coach Dabid Robertson dedicated the victory to the “spirit of his players to win and fight under cold conditions.”“It shows our players have the spirit to fight and win. The condition was very difficult and pitch turned worst during second half. But at the end of the day, we were able to get three points out of the game,” he said.

Robertson said his team will now focus on the upcoming games particularly against East Bengal FC, which is also scheduled on February 10.
Gokulam Technical director Gift Raikhan cited the cold condition and snowfall as the main reason behind low performance of his team.

“The day was horrible as boys were shivering and are even now struggling to get normal. It was an advantage for the host team which belong to the region. We conceded goals, which should have not happened,” he said.
Raikhan said the team was focusing for their upcoming matches in home town to avoid relegation from the league.

Commenting on the performance of the host team, Raikhan said the team deserves to be the champion.“All their home side players are willing to play and win. They work hard and their efforts are praiseworthy,” he said.

Bearing snowfall and cold, many scores had made it to witness match here at TRC ground.“I came all the way from Kulgam and it won’t pinch me if my team wins today,” said Ali Muhammad a football lover.