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Hero I-league Result – 8th Feb

Real Kashmir see off Sudeva Delhi fightback to end winless run

Real Kashmir FC 4 (Lalnuntluanga Bawitlung 17’, Richard Osei Agyemang 20’, 71’, Jestin George 83’)
Sudeva Delhi FC 2 (Alexis Gomez 22’, Shavkati Khotam (P) 55’)

SRINAGAR: Real Kashmir FC ended their eight-game winless streak in the Hero I-League with a 4-2 victory against Sudeva Delhi FC at the TRC Stadium in Srinagar on Wednesday, February 8, 2023.

Lalnuntluanga Bawitlung and Richard Osei Agyemang had the Snow Leopards two goals to the good after just 20 minutes. Sudeva Delhi’s new forward signings Alexis Gomez and Shavkati Khotam helped them claw back to 2-2, but the hosts had enough left in the tank in the second half to regain their two-goal advantage and cruise to a much-needed win.

It was a high-intensity start to the first half from Real Kashmir, who were quick to find their feet in their comfort zone of the TRC Stadium after seven consecutive games on the road. In the 17th minute, midfielder Yakubu Wadudu picked out an unmarked Lalnuntluanga Bawitlung with a fine cross from the left wing. The Indian carefully headed it past Sudeva captain and custodian Priyant Singh to put the hosts ahead.

Just three minutes later, Samuel Kynshi sent a tricky free-kick delivery into the six-yard box. Richard Agyemang tried to flick the ball into the path of one of his teammates, but his rather unusual touch deceived everyone including goalkeeper Priyant who failed to keep the ball from going into the back of his goal.

Sudeva Delhi were quick to pull one back, and they did it with a moment of individual brilliance. Their Argentine recruit Alexis Gomez struck a stunning free-kick into the top corner from more than 25 yards out for his second goal after just three games in a Sudeva shirt.

The visitors from the capital began the second period on a strong note as well. R Lalbiakliana, who was one of the bright spots for Sudeva in the first half, continued to trouble the Real Kashmir full-backs with his trickery. In the 53rd minute, the 18-year-old proved too quick for defender Rupert Nongrum who brought him down inside the box. Tajik striker Shavkati Khotam stepped up to take the penalty and beat Subhasish Roy Chowdhury with a precise shot into the corner.

However, Real Kashmir got themselves together after conceding the equaliser, pushing men forward in the hopes of regaining the advantage. And their persistence paid off as Kynshi and Agyemang combined again from a set piece to score the hosts’ third goal. This time, the Indian whipped in a corner from the left, which was expertly sent into the back of the net by a glancing header from the Ghanaian.

While Agyemang was having his best day in Real Kashmir colours, his countryman Nurudeen had one of the more frustrating ones. The striker was denied thrice in the first half by goalkeeper Priyant Singh before fluffing a golden opportunity to kill the game in the 78th minute. Stealing the ball from Sukhandeep in the attacking third, Nurudeen went one-on-one with Priyant, rounded him, but sent his shot over the crossbar in front of an open goal.

However, just five minutes after Nurudeen’s miss, Jestin George struck for Real Kashmir and sealed the three points. It was yet another set piece which undid Sudeva Delhi. This time, Sankarlal Chakraborty’s side failed to clear Loken Meitei’s corner, and George reacted the quickest inside the six-yard box to poke home the fourth for the Snow Leopards.

Fletcher wins it for NEROCA FC against Mumbai Kenkre

NEROCA FC 1 (Jourdain Fletcher, 60)
Mumbai Kenkre FC 0

IMPHAL: NEROCA FC did their cause of surviving in the Hero I-League a world of good as they defeated Mumbai Kenkre FC 1-0 here at Khuman Lampak Stadium on Wednesday, February 8, 2023.

A contest between teams trying to avoid relegation is generally a cagey affair. So it was today, but NEROCA had the upper hand right through, as is shown by their 15 shots on goal, eight of which were on target. Had the Kenkre defence not played a near-perfect game, Khogen Singh’s men would have won by a bigger margin. A combined effort from Kynsailang Khongsit and Papuia stopped NEROCA from taking the lead in the 11th minute. The ball reached Hero of the Match Jourdain Fletcher from Nonganba, whose shot was blocked. Then Bayi Kamo passed on to Sweden Fernandes, who was shut out again.

There were no other major goalmouth incidents in the first half, except Kenkre’s Cameroonian forward Auguestejunior Boumsomlaga scoring in the 43rd minute, only to be found offside. He got another chance to become the hero right after the breather. Boum was unmarked inside the box in the 53rd minute as the ball was headed down to him. But he could not keep his balance and blew away the opportunity.

After a flurry of attacks, NEROCA finally got the goal they wanted as Kamo’s defence-splitting through pass found Fletcher in attacking third. He outran Samandar Ochilov and went around goalkeeper Padam Chettri, who dived to snatch the ball away from him. Fletcher had gone to an acute angle in the process but did not fail to find the net with his left foot.

David Simbo came very close to doubling the lead with a header off Mirjalol Kasimov’s corner three minutes later, but it went just over the bar.

Kenkre had their backs to the wall but Thokchom Johnson Singh’s red card in the 78th minute gave them some hope. The man had been booked in the 44th minute for a nasty foul. This time referee Mithun Kumar Kundu held him guilty of a handball, where the ball was coming from his back. However, Kenkre could not utilise the one-man advantage.

The only occasion when they looked really worthy of an equaliser came in the fifth minute of stoppage time. It was more a moment of individual brilliance than a concerted move by Akhil Kothari’s boys. Replacement Afzar Noorani ran in from the left and tried to curl in a magnificent right-footer through the far post. But NEROCA custodian Soram Poirei flew to his left and saved his side when they needed it most.

With this win, NEROCA moved up to the eighth spot on the Hero I-League table with 20 points, while Kenkre remained on 14.