I-League: Sony Norde boost for Mohun Bagan ahead of Real Kashmir contest

Mohun Bagan will look to improve its dismal home record this season when it takes on an in-form Real Kashmir on Sunday.

He's back: Sony Norde is part of the 18-man squad for the contest. File Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Mohun Bagan, the former champion, has a fit-again Sony Norde back in its squad when it faces Real Kashmir FC in its I-League fixture in Kolkata on Sunday. Having missed a fourth consecutive match for his muscle injury, the I-League winning forward was seen training in full gear and was named in the 18-member squad.

After its derby loss, Mohun Bagan won back-to-back matches against Minerva and Shillong Lajong FC. But it has slipped to the sixth position on the points table following a 2-1 loss to Neroca FC. “Sony is fit now and will be in the 18-man squad. Our target is to get three points at any cost,” coach Shankarlal Chakraborty told reporters on the eve of the match.

With the likes of Pintu Mahata, Sukhdev Singh and Sourav Das injured, the return of Norde will be a big relief for the team. To accommodate him, the coach may look to bench last season’s leading scorer Aser Dipanda, and give a central role to Henry Kisseka.

'A good side'

It runs into an in-form opponent. In the first leg, Real Kashmir lost to Mohun Bagan by a solitary goal. But since then, the rookie team is on an unbeaten run from six matches. “The first-leg match was different. It was a different ground, different conditions. Currently they are ahead of us so we have to focus on the game,” the Mohun Bagan coach said.

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The team also has a poor home record to contend with — it has won just one of its six home matches.

“I have told everyone to forget about what we did in the first phase. We have to focus on the second leg. Currently we are concentrating on Real Kashmir game,” Chakraborty reasoned.

“Real Kashmir are a good side, they are in good form at the moment and are very consistent. They have very good foreign players. The Indian players are also supporting them. We have to be very cautious against them. They did well against [East Bengal], too,” he said.

'Different ball game'

Away from home for three matches, Real Kashmir has scored five points, which include a win over leader Chennai City FC to remain in title contention. In the standings, the side lies in third place. It has a six-point deficit against Chennai City, which has played one match more.

 

Real Kashmir played its last match here at the Salt Lake Stadium where it held East Bengal 1-1 on December 28. The team has stayed back in the city since then. “It’s good to be here. Halfway into the season, this is the longest gap we had. We have all enjoyed,” David Robertson, the head coach, said.

Asked about the first leg defeat, he said: “We did our bits. But it’s a different ball game playing here in a bigger ground. We have done well against EB, hopefully my players will do well against Mohun Bagan.”

'Have to be focussed for 90 minutes'

Robertson further said the pressure would be on the home side Mohun Bagan which lost its previous match. “[Mohun Bagan] lost the last game, so there is of course a lot of pressure. Playing in front of home crowd so many fans is difficult. They have not been great at home.”

The Kashmir outfit will also be buoyed by the return of its key defender Mason Robertson who missed the contest against East Bengal due to food poisoning. With Mason in the backline along with captain Loveday Enyinnaya, it will be an interesting challenge against winger Norde.

Mohun Bagan had defeated Real Kashmir at Srinagar, in November, 2018. Photo: PTI

 

“Norde is a good player but he is not the only player. He didn’t play in the first leg. Defensively, we have been good. We create chances in every game. We have to be focused for 90 minutes. Against Kolkata clubs you have to be focused for 90 minutes,” the Kashmir coach said.

'Have to be realistic'

The team may be in the midst of a dream run in its debut season but coach Robertson said, “We have to be realistic.”

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Robertson said the first goal will to save relegation. “The expectations increased after the first leg. But my first target is to save relegation. We are a new club and playing against big teams. We want to finish as high as we can,” he said.

“We know we won’t win the league. It’s a great honour to play against teams like [Mohun Bagan] and [East Bengal] — the results of which would determine where we would finish.”

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