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I-League 2023-24: Real Kashmir's title hopes end after draw with Mohammedan Sporting

Published at :March 23, 2024 at 9:42 PM
Modified at :March 23, 2024 at 9:42 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF Media)

Khel Now

Mohammedan Sporting remain the favourites to lift the I-League trophy.

Real Kashmir’s title aspirations were laid to rest after they settled for a goalless draw against Mohammedan Sporting in a crucial I-League match at the TRC Football Turf in Srinagar on Saturday, March 23, 2024. It was Real Kashmir’s fourth draw on the trot.

For table toppers Mohammedan Sporting, it was another step towards winning the title though they dropped points on Saturday after four back-to-back wins. They now have 48 points from 21 matches with 14 wins, six draws and one loss.

Sreenidi Deccan, sitting at second spot with 39 points from 19 matches, remain the only team with a mathematical chance to challenge Mohammedan Sporting for the title. However, with three matches left in the season for Mohammedan Sporting, the Kolkata giants still control their destiny and the title will be theirs to lose.

The draw ended Real Kashmir’s chances of winning the I-League crown. The Snow Leopards are fourth in the table with 37 points from 21 matches. Despite having three matches remaining in their campaign, the mathematical impossibility of surpassing Mohammedan Sporting’s points tally means that Real Kashmir can no longer contend for the top spot.

In what was a pivotal match, Real Kashmir and Mohammedan Sporting faced off with their respective ambitions at stake. Hosts Real Kashmir, who had to settle for draws in their last three matches, entered the game with a sense of urgency. The Ishfaq Ahmed-coached side was aware that a victory would keep their title aspirations alive.

On the other hand, Mohammedan Sporting have been known for their consistency throughout the league and were coming into the game on a winning streak of four games. They eyed an away win to solidify their march towards the title.

Despite the high stakes, the first half was characterised by a cautious approach from both teams. Neither side was willing to risk conceding space that could be exploited by the opposition. As a result, it led to limited goal-scoring opportunities. And the chances that did arise were squandered by the forwards from both teams. It also underscored the intensity and pressure of the encounter as players like Real Kashmir’s Shaher Shaheen and Gnohere Krizo and Mohammedan Sporting’s Eddie Hernandez and Beneston Piecton Barretto struggled to direct their shots on target and break the deadlock in the first 45 minutes.

The first significant test for the goalkeepers arrived in the 60th minute. Real Kashmir’s Krizo won the ball in the midfield and played a quick pass to Kamal Issah, who released Jeremy Laldinpuia on the left flank. The agile winger advanced with the ball before taking a shot at goal. It marked the first real challenge for Mohammedan Sporting’s goalkeeper, Padam Chettri, in the match. And he passed with flying colours as he fisted away the ball. The ensuing rebound fell to Issah, who had an opportunity to convert but unfortunately couldn’t guide his header on target.

On the offence, Mohammedan Sporting relied mainly on counter-attacks in the second half. This strategy marked a departure from their recent form, where they had demonstrated a potent offensive capability, scoring 11 goals in their previous four matches. However, it also highlighted their strategic priority to secure a crucial point in the larger scheme of winning the coveted I-League crown. And they did that effectively.

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