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I-League

Talking Points: Can Bilal Khan be Real Kashmir's talisman this season?

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The former Gokulam Kerala and FC Pune City custodian registered his first clean-sheet with the debutants.

It was a day for the history books in Kashmiri football as Real Kashmir came out on top against defending champions Minerva Punjab 0-1 in their I-League debut game at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Real Kashmir are the first side from the Valley to play in the top flight and to win in their first match against Minerva away from home is exactly what the team and the fans from the state would have wished for.

A late solitary goal from Ivorian talisman Gnohere Krizo was enough for the Snow Leopards to bag all three points against the reigning champions in their own den. Here are the talking points from the game:

5. Minerva Punjab's profligacy in front of goal may haunt them

The reigning champions started their campaign with a draw against Churchill in a match which was famous for the missed opportunities from both sides. The Warriors were again lacklustre upfront on Wednesday. The players were rusty and the team clearly lacked the killer-instinct which they had last season.

The Warriors had a flurry of chances as players like William Opoku, Kouame Alexandre and even Makan Winkle Chothe will rue their decision-making and inability to find the back of the nets. Paul Munster tried a different tactic in the game. His  team was more direct and they tried to break the Real Kashmir defence through the middle. But, poor finishing and decision-making in the final third is something that will bother the Northern Irishman now.

4. Bilal Khan saved Real Kashmir in tight situations

The former Gokulam and FC Pune City goalkeeper was on the radar of several teams, so it was surprising when he decided to join the debutants instead. It was a highly professional display from the lanky custodian. He managed his lines with great aplomb and was always communicating with his defenders during set-pieces.

The 24-year-old was fearless and never shy to come off his line to clear the ball. Bilal's crucial saves kept the Snow Leopards in the match, which they eventually won. The goalkeeper was good with his distribution as well and was rightfully adjudged the Hero of The Match.

3. Minerva Punjab need to find the right combination



The Warriors, despite the result, were true to their values of providing chances to youngsters. Young winger Makan Chothe started the game and put in a bright display on the left flank. He also had a golden opportunity to score in the first half, but inexperience and poor decision-making cost him at the crucial moment. The team has got brilliant young players, along with some experienced and mature heads in their ranks but currently, there seems to be no chemistry in the side. Nagaland sensation Hitova Ayemi was also seen today as a substitute. The youngster could not make an impact, but if given time he can be a weapon for the team in the final third.

Kouame Alexandre who did put in a shift in the last match started here against Real Kashmir, but could not replicate a similar performance on the day. With a horde of young talented players coming through the youth ranks, the team management along with Munster, must sit with the players and find the right combination which is best suited for the team.


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2. Mason Robertson was a phenomenon at the back for Real Kashmir

The Scottish centre-back proved his mettle in his first match in India. Mason was always marshalling his fellow defenders, cutting the passing lanes in the final third and stood tall to head out the aerial balls. Minerva tried to take the aerial route, but a resolute Robertson kept the ball out of danger for most of the time.

He had a great understanding with his fellow defenders Loveday Enyinnaya and Dharmraj Ravanan and did not allow much room for the Minerva forwards to exploit. With more time the defender will only get better and with his physical presence he can also be an aerial threat from set-pieces for the Snow Leopards.

1. Katebe and Krizo can be a force to reckon with

The African duo combined to score the only goal in the match and were constant threats for the Minerva defence. Krizo was playing more as a target man upfront, whereas Aaron Katebe has been given the free role to roam around the field. It was Katebe's ball that laid the path for Krizo to score the goal, which in the end was enough to down reigning champions Minerva.

The duo will develop more understanding with time and with Krizo's physicality and eye for goal and Katebe's smart movement and excellent delivery, it will be a treat to watch them for the I-League debutants.

Published: Wed Oct 31, 2018 06:05 PM IST

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