Debutants Real Kashmir FC inflicted a tennis scoreline on Shillong Lajong FC, running away 6-1 winners at the TRC Turf ground in Srinagar, as their run of six continuous home matches came to a roaring end in front of adoring fans who had packed the venue in biting cold. With their fourth win out of seven 12th Hero I-League games, Kashmir soar to third on the points table, level with second-placed Churchill Brothers on points but a tad behind on goal difference.
Kashmir’s goals were scored by Ghanaian forward Abednedo Kofi, who got two for himself, Mason Robertson, Nagen Tamang, Gnohere Krizo and Surchandra Singh. Samuel Lyngdoh got Shillong’s lone goal as the Meghalaya outfit remained at 10th place after eight games with just four points to show for their efforts.
The home team’s Scottish coach David Robertson fielded an unchanged side while Alison Kharsyntiew made two changes to the side which started against Neroca in the previous game which they lost. Hardy Cliff Nongbri and Sheen Stevenson made starts while Awmpuia and Nabin Rabha started on the bench.
Nagen Tamang, the Hero of the Match, got the first chance of the game as early as the third minute when he hit straight to keeper Neithovilie Chalieu from close. It was a sign of things to come.
In the 25th minute, Ivorian beanpole striker Krizo bulldozed his way past two defenders into the Shillong box from the left and squared it beautifully for Ghanaian Abednedo Kofi Tetteh, who tapped it past Neitho for it to go in, getting a touch off defender Rakesh Pradhan on its way. It was Kofi’s first goal in Kashmir colours.
Three minutes later, Shillong got a fortuitous equaliser when Aibanbha’s long ball from deep inside the Shillong half was finding its way harmlessly towards Kashmir keeper Bilal, but his first-time clearance struck a chasing Samuel Lyngdoh and entered the Kashmir net.
It was the coach’s son Mason Robertson who then put the hosts ahead once again in the 37th minute when off a Surchandra Singh corner, he rose to connect with a perfect header to beat Neitho and bulge the Shillong net.
Kashmir extended their lead further in the 42nd minute when Bazie Armand caught Shillong on the break and made a run forward. He found Kofi on the left flank who played ahead to Nagen Tamang who had got inside the box with a wonderful run. The Kurseong forward controlled the ball, turned to face the goal and curled a right-footer past Neitho into the far corner for his first in a Kashmir yellow as well.
After an entertaining first half, Krizo almost added a fourth at the beginning of the second when a snapshot from him beat Neitho and hit the bar, just two minutes into the half.
Off the resulting corner, however, Krizo did find his second goal of the campaign, as Kashmir were awarded a penalty when Aibhan was adjudged to have brought down Krizo inside the box. The Ivorian easily beat Neitho with his calmly taken spot-kick for Kashmir’s fourth of the game.
The ‘Snow Leopards’ of Real Kashmir had not finished yet, as, in the 74th minute, Shillong’s net bulged again, this time thanks to a ferocious Surchandra Singh strike. Nagem Tamang it was, who initiated the move from the left and after a deft 1-2 with Kofi found himself deep inside the Shillong box.
His attempted cross deflected off the Shillong defence and the loose ball fell for Surchandra who nailed it for his second of the league this season.
With the game done and dusted coach Robertson gave all his top players, Surchandra, Nagen Tamag and Krizo a well-deserved rest and gave local players and stars of their successful second division campaign last year like Basheer, Ritwik Kumar Das and Danish.
Shahnawaz claimed an assist just moments after coming on when his cross from the left was neatly headed in by Kofi on the near post to make it his second and half a dozen for Kashmir from the game.
While the massive win will keep Kashmir confident as they head on to the road for nearly two months, Shillong will have to get back to the drawing board for some serious introspection, having leaked 22 goals in the league so far.