Real Kashmir bounced back from two consecutive defeats as they beat Indian Arrows by a solitary goal to remain in the top half of the I-League points table in Srinagar on Monday.
Ivorian midfielder Bazie Armand scored the all-important goal in the 70th minute to the celebration of over 10,000 home team supporters at the picturesque TRC Ground.
Real Kashmir, who lost to Punjab FC and Churchill Brothers – both away games – in their previous two matches, now have 18 points from 12 games to occupy the fifth spot in the 11-team league table.
The Indian Arrows, the developmental side of the All India Football Federation, remained at the bottom of the pile with eight points from 13 games.
Real Kashmir’s David Robertson made as many as three changes, bringing in Ritwik Kumar Das, Kallum Higginbotham and Novin Gurung, in place of Dalraj, Brian Mascarenhas and Danish Farooq.
Arrows head coach Venkatesh Shanmugham played Harmanpreet upfront and Ricky Shabong in the midfield.
Zambian Aaron Katebe created the first chance of the game for Real Kashmir, as he twisted and turned past a couple of defenders, but his right-footed toe-poke was dealt with by Arrows custodian Jongte.
Then, Robin Singh had a couple of chances. Mason Robertson showed great vision to put him through on one occasion and then Higginbotham found him with a trademark floater but much did not come out of those opportunities.
The best chance of the half though went to the Arrows. It was a lovely team effort initiated by Hendry Antonay from the left flank. He played in Ricky Shabong, who put a lovely through-ball onto Harmanpreet, who had made the run to his left. Harman was soon one-on-one with the keeper from a tight angle but missed the target.
Katebe found a second good chance to score, this time in the early stages of the second half. From a Higginbotham corner, the ball dropped invitingly for him as he came rushing in but the Zambian failed to connect.
The ‘Snow Leopards’ finally broke the deadlock in the 70th minute. Mason Robertson hurled a high and long throw-in from the right flank. It bounced just outside the six-yard box and looped high again going across goal. Bazie Armand found the opportunity to use his height and strength to rise above the keeper and defenders to head in.
Bazie, since coming over to Srinagar, has made it quite a habit of scoring important and match-winning goals over the past two seasons and Monday was no different.
Coach Robertson replaced Robin Singh with Danish Farooq with just over 10 minutes to go. However, it was his son Mason who went on a delightful run, slicing open the Arrows defence to unleash a crisp right-footer on target, only for keeper Jongte to make a good save.
That was the last good chance of the game as the Arrows kept fighting but could not find the breakthrough.
Real Kashmir now have six more home games to play.
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