Real Kashmir FC kicked off their I-League 2022-23 campaign with a 1-0 win over NEROCA FC at Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, Manipur on Sunday.
A second-half strike by Seydhu Nohu marked a thrilling end to the game as the first champions’ league took off from the southwestern reaches of the country to the northeast in Imphal, Manipur, in the lit-up Khuman Lampak.
The visitors, for their part, seemed to break on the counter, to volley the ball to Seidu Nuhu; The Ghana striker looked to get behind the Neroka defense with his explosive shots, but the hosts held firm.
And Real Kashmir on the counter had the first chance of the match, when Jerry Hummer broke the left flank and tried his luck from outside the penalty area, but the ball passed over the crossbar.
Uzbekistan’s Neroka midfielder Sardor Yakhonov remained influential through half-time proceedings, serving as a fulcrum from deep in the middle of the park, greatly helping the hosts retain possession for long periods of the game. Despite their possession, NEROCA didn’t pose too many serious threats to Real Kashmir’s goal, which was guarded by veteran goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.
On the other hand, Nuhu looked dangerous for the visitors and came close to scoring near the half-hour mark. When the Ghanaian ignored his marker on the edge of the Neroka area, he tried his luck with a quick shot, but it was straight at goalkeeper Soram Bowery.
The 26-year-old was at it again, when he hooked him from outside the box, but Borey stood tall and punched him to safety, with just over 10 minutes of regulation time left in the first half. It was the last real chance of the first half, as both sides headed into the tunnel with the scorers still untroubled.
After the changeover, Real Kashmir came out with plenty of attacking intent, and almost opened up the NEROCA defence, when Davinder Singh chipped a tombstone on the right near the corner line, cut into the box, and sent in a low cut-back to Nozym Babajanov, whose shot slipped inches wide.
A similar stunt two minutes later finally paid off for Real Kashmir, as Ghanaian midfielder Waddudu Yakubu broke in from the right and a hard low cross was volleyed in by Nuhu.
NEROCA started to show more urgency after conceding the goal, but some heavy pressing by Real Kashmir meant the hosts were unable to put many passes together into the opposition net. Their first real chance of the second half came minutes into the hour mark when a cross from the left by Lallenmang Sitlhou was headed in by substitute Aquigam Singh at the far post, but it was headed straight at Subhasish.
As the evening wore on, Neroca’s Ronaldo Fletcher developed into the game, often dropping deep to help his team create chances. The Jamaican forward pulled the trigger with just over 10 minutes of regulation time remaining, but the effort was parried by Real Kashmir’s defense.
Fletcher had several more runs on the Snow Leopards defense in the final ten minutes of regulation time. The first time around, his powerful shot into the box was thwarted by Lamina Moro, who timely made his sliding tackle to perfection, while the second time around, Fletcher cut to the line and sent in a low cross that was shot by Subhasish, it also took Kamalpreet Singh’s touch and it was out. from playing.
Captain David Sembo had arguably the best chance of the Neroka game, with an injury-time corner kick by Fletcher headed straight for the former at the near post. However, he mistimed his header, which rolled into the goalkeeper’s hands.
The hosts increased the pressure in the dying minutes, getting a string of set-piece chances, but it was too little, too late, as Real Kashmir escaped with all three points at the end.
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