Real Kashmir registered their first victory of the I-League, beating defending champions Chennai City 2-1 in Srinagar on Thursday. Local hero Danish Farooq and Ivorian Bazzie Armand scored for RKFC while Chennai reduced the margin through Syed Suhail Pasha.
With the win, RKFC jumped to the seventh spot with five points from three matches while Chennai dropped to eighth with five from five games. It was RKFC’s first home match of the tournament. They were supposed to play their first home match in Srinagar at the TRC ground on December 12. But due to heavy snowfall that forced closing of the Srinagar airport, their successive home games against Gokulam Kerala FC and Churchill Brothers were postponed. The home team led 2-0 at halftime in the first sports match in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.
RKFC were faster off the blocks and received a golden opportunity to go ahead when Kallum Higginbotham menacingly entered the box from the right flank but Mason Robertson failed to push the ball into a gaping net. The hosts, though, didn’t have to wait for to score. Farooq put them ahead in the 22nd minute.
An unmarked Farooq leapt high to head home an accurate cross from Kallum Higginbotham from the right flank. The early goal helped RKFC gain control of the proceedings and Higginbotham ran the show from the centre of the pitch. Chennai found it difficult to deal with his crosses from both flanks. One such probing delivery led to the second goal in the 27th minute. Ivorian Bazzie Armand rose above two defenders to direct his header into the top corner.
The ‘Snow Leopards’ could have scored another goal before halftime had Mason, fed by Higginbotham, not dragged his shot past the far post. Chennai needed a quick goal after the break to turn their fortune. And they scored in the 47th minute through Syed Suhail Pasha, who nodded home after Pravitto Raju flicked a bouncing ball towards him.
An energised Chennai then put RKFC under pressure, creating a couple of opportunities after their first goal. But it never seemed they could nick an equaliser despite enjoying 65 per cent of ball possession.
Farooq Khan, Advisor to Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, witnessed the match and complimented both the teams for enthralling Kashmiris along with an excellent football show.
“It was a splendid win and we did it for Kashmir. The coach and the team ensured that every Kashmiri returned smiling today back home”, Real Kashmir FC co-founder, Sandeep Chattoo said after the win.