RKFC’s Danish Farooq (L) along with Mason Robertson battle for the ball against a Minerva FC player on Wednesday.
Chandigarh, Oct 31: Real Kashmir FC on Wednesday stunned defending champions Minerva Punjab FC in a sensational start to their maiden I-League campaign, taking the first step towards realising the beginners’ dream of making the ‘Paradise on Earth’ a “paradise for football”.
The first team from the Valley to play in the country’s top-flight, Real Kashmir FC scored the game’s only goal through Gnohere Krizo’s 73rd minute strike, giving the rival goalkeeper no chance to stop the ball that was travelling in great speed.
The emergence of Real Kashmir and their elevation to the I-League is the most fascinating story of Indian football in recent times.
Formed three years ago, Real Kashmir last season won the second division league to get promoted into the top flight.
Living up to their coach’s assertion on the eve of the game, Real Kashmir did give the holders a run for their money.
Real Kashmir had a chance to make it 2-0 four minutes after breaking the deadlock, but Minerva Punjab will be kicking themselves as they had a bright start to the second-half but failed to make their chances count.
It was a tight affair and Minerva Punjab FC paid for their profligacy in front of goal.
Minerva Punjab made two changes to their starting line-up that drew 0-0 against Churchill Brothers. Nongdamba Naorem and Manandeep Singh missed out a spot in the starting XI and they were replaced by Makan Chothe and Kouame Alexandre.
Robertson fielded his side in a 3-5-2 formation with Dharmaraj Ravanan, Mason Robertson and Loveday Okechukwu as the three defenders. Brian Mascarenhas, Bazie Armand and Danish Farooq played in the middle of the park with Aaron Katebe and Krizo starting up front.
Minerva adopted a strategical change from their last outing as they were looking to create opportunities down the middle instead of hoisting aimless long balls. But lack of quality in the final third was evident as the Warriors were unable to test shot stopper Bilal Khan in the opening 20 minutes.
Chothe was played through on goal and he did well to skip past his marker before testing Bilal but Real Kashmir keeper did well to make a clean save.
Minerva started brightly after the break as Sangwan’s cross from the left flank was brilliantly directed towards goal by ALexandre but the crossbar came to the rescue of Robertson’s side on that occassion. Minutes later it was Opoku who managed to weave some space for himself to pull the trigger but Bilal was equal to the task to deny the Ghanian.
Minerva were creating chances in plenty but were not being to able to convert them. Alexandre strayed offside on most occasions which broke down their build-up. The Ivorian was neither clinical in front of goal which heaped more misery on Minerva.
The opener spurred on the team from Srinagar and they should have gone 2-0 up when Krizo set up Katebe and the midfielder did not think twice before shooting at goal but was denied by the woodwork.
Frustration crept into the Minerva side and goalkeeper Roy was seen getting into a scuffle with his own team-mate Toure.
Although the Warriors kept pouring men forward in search of their equaliser Mason Robertson led his defence well to see out any danger in the closing stages of the match.
After succumbing to a shock home defeat Minerva will get time to regroup as they are set to take on Aizawl on November 10 whereas Real Kashmir will host their first home match of this season when they face Churchill Brothers on November 6.