Real Kashmir humble Mohun Bagan 2-1, keep title hopes alive in maiden season

The win against a profligate Mohun Bagan helped Real Kashmir, the first team from the valley to play in India’s top-flight, continue their fairy tale run. (Twitter/ILeagueOfficial)

Real Kashmir humbled heavyweights Mohun Bagan 2-1 and the giant-killing act, one of many engineered by the debutantes in the ongoing I-League, kept their title hopes alive, in Kolkata Sunday. The win against a profligate Mohun Bagan helped Real Kashmir, the first team from the valley to play in India’s top-flight, continue their fairy tale run.

The team’s sixth victory was achieved on the back of a brace by Mason Robertson, who struck in the 33rd and 74th minute at the Salt Lake Stadium. Starting as a defender, Scottish Robertson, who was recruited by his father and coach of the club David Robertson, dominated the game to hand the former champions a second successive defeat.

League winning star winger Sony Norde, who made a comeback after missing four matches due to his leg injury, scored the solitary goal for the home side in the 42nd minute. "Today’s win is because of dedication and hard work of everyone at RKFC. The boys were exceptional and I am sure that the spirit continues as we begin our final uphill task," said Sandeep Chattoo, co-owner of Real Kashmir Football Club (RKFC).

"The RKFC wishes to place on record it’s great appreciation towards people of Kolkata for the love showered on us," RKFC owners Chattoo and Shamim Meraj said. The result also avenged their home leg defeat to Mohun Bagan as they moved up the pecking order, going past NEROCA FC to the second place.

The Snow Leopards now have a three-point deficit against leaders Chennai City (24) in the standings as the father-son duo continued to weave magic for the club. Mohun Bagan slipped to sixth place with 15 points from 11 matches and saw their title hopes virtually go up in smoke. The visitors also capped a fine outing in Kolkata after their 1-1 draw against East Bengal, extending their unbeaten run to seven matches in the top-tier league.

Mason, who missed their last match against East Bengal due to food poisoning, quickly switched to the attacking third and make instant impact. At the halfway mark, the newcomers drew first blood against the run of play when Mason deceived Arijit Bagui in an aerial battle and headed home a cross floated in by Surchandra Singh, stunning the boisterous home crowd.

The Shankarlal Chakraborty-coached side started pressing hard with more urgency after conceding and kept knocking on Kashmir’s door for the equaliser. It paid pidends, as Norde brought the Mariners back into the game with a sublime free-kick, which flew into the top corner.

Mohun Bagan got a chance to snatch the lead moments later with a perfect cross by Henry Kisseka but midfielder Sourav Das’ header failed to make an impact. Mohun Bagan wasted another chance in the 69th minute, this time from a free-kick with Norde shooting it over the cross bar from outside the penalty box. The 24-year-old Mason, who quit Scottish club Peterhead FC after being roped in by his father on a full-time contract for Real Kashmir, brought up his brace with a thunderbolt strike.

From an assist by Abednego Tetteh, who played a through ball, the Scottish player blasted a shot that went in, touching the inside of the near post. Continuing their sloppy finishing, Mohun Bagan got a couple of golden chances but there was disappointment in store for the home outfit.

Mohun Bagan coach quits after defeat to Real Kashmir

Mohun Bagan’s defeat at the hands of I-League debutants Real Kashmir FC Sunday had an immediate casualty as coach Shankarlal Chakraborty tendered his resignation, owning "moral responsibility". This was Mohun Bagan’s second consecutive defeat in the I-League after losing to Neroca FC as their title hopes are all but over.

"I’ve informed the club officials that I do not wish to stay anymore. Now it’s up to the club to take a call," Chakraborty said at the post-match news conference. The Kolkata giants have a packed calendar with four successive matches at Saltlake Stadium, including the return-leg derby on January 27 and Chakraborty said he would remain with the club till the management appoints his successor.

"We have a match (against defending champions Minerva Punjab) after three days. It will be difficult for the club to rope in someone. So, I will continue till the club management decides of someone."

Mohun Bagan have faired poorly at Saltlake Stadium this season, losing thrice, including in the derby to East Bengal, and drawing twice from six matches. "I’m not quitting out of pressure. I thought I gave my best but I’m unable to help the team make a turnaround," he said.

Earlier in January last year, Mohun Bagan’s I-League winning coach Sanjoy Sen quit after their loss to Chennai City FC and his then deputy Chakraborty was promoted. Delving about his defensive tactics, Chakraborty said he never wanted another foreign defender and reminded that Mohun Bagan were used to playing with one foreign central and one Indian defender.

"We always hade one foreign defender and one Indian. Belo (Rasaq), Luciano (Sabrosa), Eduardo (Ferreira), (Eze) Kingsley, and one Indian defender. We did not get Sukhdev (Singh) as he got injured," he said.

"I am not being able to do anything. I have already told the club that I don’t want to stay. The team has quality but maybe I am not being able to recognise it," he said.