The Snow Leopards have climbed to the top of the table currently.
High-flying Real Kashmir took on underwhelming Gokulam Kerala at the TRC Stadium, in Srinagar in the I-League yesterday. The hosts ran out 1-0 winners, with a 51st minute goal from Gnohere Krizo being enough to seal all the points. The Snow Leopards took full advantage of the atrocious weather conditions, as they hounded and hassled a poor Gokulam side throughout the 90 minutes.
Here are the talking points from the game:
5. Is Mason Robertson the most versatile player in the I-League?
Mason Robertson has been excellent for Real Kashmir this season
The footballing revolution in the Kashmir Valley has taken the country by storm and the Scottish professional has been at the heart of it all. His father, Dave Robertson, who is the manager of Real Kashmir, had bought him in at the start of the season and the 24-year-old has been an excellent recruit for the Snow Leopards.
He is generally deployed as a center-back or a defensive midfielder, but he was used further up the pitch in this match, in the form of a box-to-box player. He dominated the Gokulam midfield, which found it next to impossible to play their passing game due to the clogged water on the synthetic turf.
Seeing the ground conditions, the Real Kashmir defence often flung long balls into the final third and the Kerala defence found it very hard to cope with his physicality. Robertson is a ideal utility player and his performances will be crucial to determining Kashmir’s chances of winning the I-League this season.
4. Has Krizo found his scoring boots again?
Before kick-off, a lot was spoken about the poor form of Gnohere Krizo, Real Kashmir’s striker. He had scored only three goals this season and was perceived to be not good enough to lead the home side’s line. However, he was at the right place at the right time, as he tucked in a Danish Farooq cross at the far post. It ultimately turned out to be the decisive goal.
The Ivorian may not score a lot of goals, but he is a vital cog in Real Kasmir’s attacking gameplay and ending his goalless streak just before the crucial game against East Bengal will do his confidence a world of good.
3. Is a poor midfield pivot the reason behind Gokulam’s downfall this season?
Vorbe was pretty non-existent for his side
Gokulam Kerala were one of the surprise packages of the I-League last season, but they have failed to deliver the goods this campaign. One of the main reasons for that could be poor performances from their midfield duo, Guilherme Batata, and Fabien Vorbe. Both of them seemed to be non-existent, with the Kashmir attack managing to bypass them almost every single time they got on the ball.
It was also surprising to note that knowing how poor the pitch was, Gokulam’s technical director Gift Raikhan did not ask his side to play a more physical and long-ball based football.
2. Is the Loveday-Katabe partnership the best in the league?
The I-League has seen some top center-back partnerships this season but there is probably no one better than Loveday and Katabe at the heart of the Real Kashmir defence. The duo has only conceded eight goals in the 16 games that they have played together so far, keeping nine clean-sheets.
They were immense once again, as they sniffed out the rare attacks from the Gokulam side and as such, goalkeeper Bilal Khan had almost nothing to do throughout the game. Alongside Robertson, the form of these two will be just as important to help Kashmir over the line.
1. Are Real Kashmir favorites to win the I-League this season?
With 32 points from 16 games, Real Kashmir are currently atop the I-League table. They are being hotly chased by Chennai City, Churchill Brothers and East Bengal, but the Snow Leopards are in the driving seat now.
A win against East Bengal in their next home game on the 10th of February 2019 will put them further ahead than the rest of the pack. It remains to be seen if they can get going now that the business end of the season has kicked in.