Former champions Mohun Bagan rode on a second-half Dipanda Dicka strike to eke out a close 1-0 win over debutants Real Kashmir FC and register their second win of the Hero I-League, here, on Tuesday.
The win takes the Mariners to the second spot in the 12th Hero I-League standings with eight points from four games.
Real Kashmir, on the other hand, suffered its second defeat on the trot at home, keeping it on four points from a similar number of games and down to eighth place.
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Both the coaches used the opportunity to give first starts of the season to a few players, arguably to test them out before it comes to the business end of the league.
David Robertson of Kashmir handed first starts to as many as three players, Khalid Qayoom and Abhash Thapa in midfield and defence in place of Farhan Ganie and Brian Mascarenhas as well as playing Nagen Tamang as an extra midfielder in place of defender Muhammad Hammad.
Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty opted for just a change, giving defender Dalraj Singh a start in place of Kim Kima.
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The game began on a fast-paced, attacking note, but in spite of a lot of energy and commitment shown by both the sides, there were no clear-cut chances created in the first 40 minutes of the game.
The Kolkata giant, in particular, seemed to be finding it difficult coming to terms with the cold conditions and the pitch despite enjoying more possession.
It was the host which created the first chance of the half when Tamang’s free-kick in the 18th minute saw Scottish defender Mason Robertson meet the ball first with his head, but the timing of the connection made the ball lob over the Bagan goal.
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Bagan then got its first chance in the 43rd minute, when Danish Farooq brought Cameroonian Dicka down in a dangerous position outside the Kashmir box. Ugandan Henry Kisseka’s effort from the set-piece missed the goal by a whisker.
The second half witnessed a more frantic start and Kashmir, in particular, began with a lot more purpose. In the 53rd minute, Bagan’s Sourav Das penetrated past three Kashmir players into the box, but could not make much headway beyond that.
Then, Ivorian Gnohere Krizo’s long-range effort for Kashmir went just wide. Then Dicka, in the 60th minute, saw a header go just wide after Abhishek Ambekar had put in a cross from the left flank. The Cameroonian was not to be denied however and struck in the 70th minute to give Bagan the lead.
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Kisseka got hold of the ball on the left flank and found his strike mate in between Kashmir defenders Ravanan and Loveday with a wonderful cross and Dicka made no mistake with his header.
Kisseka himself then got a chance to double the lead in the 78th minute, when after combining brilliantly with the goal scorer Dicka, found himself on the end of a cross in front of Kashmir goalkeeper Bilal, but Mason made an important timely intervention.
David Robertson had played all his cards bringing in Brian Mascarenhas in place of Nagem Talang at left wing-back for more purposeful crosses as well Nadong Bhutia in the strike force and Farhan Ganie in midfield, but his moves failed to yield any positive result for the Kashmir outfit.