I-League 2018-19: Wasteful Minerva Punjab punished by Real Kashmir
Suhail Bhat
Second Division champions Real Kashmir makes a winning start to their I-league campaign as they beat Minerva Punjab 1-0...

Gnohere Krizo's solitary goal saw Real Kashmir come away with all three points against defending champions Minerva Punjab at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula on Wednesday. 

It was a tight affair and Minerva Punjab were punished by the second-division champions for their profligacy in front of goal. 

Minerva made two changes to their starting line-up that drew 0-0 against Churchill Brothers. Nongdamba Naorem and Manandeep Singh missed out a spot in the starting XI as they were replaced by Makan Chothe and Kouame Alexandre.

Real Kashmir coach David Robertson fielded his side in a 3-5-2 formation with Dharmaraj Ravanan, Mason Robertson and Loveday Okechukwu as the three defenders. Brian Mascarenhas, Bazie Armand and Danish Farooq slotted in at the centre of the park with Aaron Katebe and Krizo starting up front. 

It was a slow start from both the sides as the two teams lacked discipline in midfield. 

Minerva adopted a strategical change from their last outing as they were looking to create opportunities down the middle instead of hoisting aimless long balls. But lack of quality in the final third was evident as the Warriors were unable to test shot stopper Bilal Khan in the opening 20 minutes. 

Against the run of play, Kashmir managed to get one shot on target after Krizo laid-off a wonderful ball for Katebe who tested Bhaskar Roy with a venomous effort.  

Minerva slowly started to find their foothold on the game only during the closing stages of the first half as Alexandre and Sangwan were combining well in the attacking third.

In the final minutes of the first half, Chothe was played through on goal and he did well to skip past his marker before testing Bilal but the former Gokulam Kerala keeper did well to make a clean save. 

Minerva carried on their momentum and started brightly after the break. Sangwan's cross from the left flank was brilliantly directed towards goal by Alexandre but the crossbar came to the rescue of Robertson's side on that occasion. Minutes later, it was Opoku who managed to weave some space for himself to pull the trigger but Bilal was equal to the task to deny the Ghanian. 

Minerva were creating plenty of chances but failed to convert them. Alexandre strayed offside on most occasions. breaking down their build-up. The Ivorian was also not clinical in front of goal which heaped more misery on Minerva. 

On the 74th minute, Krizo broke the deadlock as he fired a shot past Roy from close range after getting better of his marker Toure. The move started with a throw-in from the right which was in turn headed backwards by Farooq towards Krizo and the Ivorian did well to beat Roy at the near post with a powerful shot from just outside the six-yard box. 

The opener spurred the team from Srinagar on and they should have gone 2-0 up when Krizo set up Katebe. The midfielder did not think twice before shooting at goal but was denied by the woodwork. 

Frustration crept into the Minerva side and goalkeeper Roy was seen getting into a scuffle with his own team-mate Toure. 

Although the  Warriors kept pouring men forward in search of their equaliser Mason Robertson marshalled his defence well to see out any danger in the closing stages of the match. 

After succumbing to a shock home defeat Minerva will get time to regroup as they are set to take on Aizawl on November 10. On the other hand, Real Kashmir will host their first home match of this season when they face Churchill Brothers on November 6. 

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