Goals from Lukman and Robertson guide Real Kashmir to maiden IFA Shield title
Real Kashmir FC have written their name in history by beating George Telegraph SC 2-1 in the final of the 123rd IFA Shield. The Snow Leopards became the first club from the valley to win a major national tournament and considering the meteoric rise of the club, it is a huge milestone for them.
Real Kashmir came to the finals on the back of a solid 4-0 win over Mohammedan Sporting Club – while George Telegraph defeated United SC 2-1 to reach the finals of the prestigious Shield. Despite being a CFL club, Ranjan Bhattacharya’s side have shown great fighting spirit throughout the tournament and even in the finals, they did go down fighting.
It was a very cagey first half with both teams trying to nullify each other. But Real Kashmir being the more experienced team showed their maturity and started controlling the proceedings. It all started when Chesterpoul Lyngdohwent past his marker and delivered a low cross eyeing Samuel Kynshi in the far post. However, Saddam Mondal made a timely intervention to revoke the danger.
Things started heating up and Real Kashmir were awarded a penalty from the following corner as George Telegraph defender, Ecchezona brought down Mason Robertson in the penalty area. It was the perfect opportunity for the Snow Leopards to take the lead and Lukman Adefemi made no mistake whatsoever.
In the dying moments of the first half George Telegraph had an opportunity to restore parity when they got a freekick just at the edge of the penalty box. Forward Tanmoy Ghosh stepped to take the setpiece and his curling effort deceived the wall but could beat Mithun Samanta in goal who came up with a brilliant save diving to his left.
In the second half, Ranjan Bhattacharya’s men kept pushing for the equaliser as they showed tremendous fighting spirit to go toe to toe with Real Kashmir. Youngster Goutam Das who has impressed everyone in the tournament with his silky skills and dribble past opponents at will was brought on from the bench and the 20-year-old had an immediate impact. Das made a darting run into the box from the right and Bablu Oraw picked him with a brilliant lofted pass. The youngster showed great technique to put nestle the ball into the net.
But being the more experienced team, David Robertson’s men dealt with the situation brilliantly. The Snow Leopards started breaking the rhythm that George acquired in the second half after scoring the equaliser and gradually started controlling the tempo with players like Farhan Ganie and Danish Farooq dominating the midfield battle.
Things changed when Real Kashmir earned a freekick and floated ball found Mason Robertson who made no mistake to jump higher than his marker to head it home. The Scottish defender has grown in stature in this tournament and relished the captaincy role.
Being a goal down, Ranjan Bhattacharya started throwing men forward in hope of an equaliser and his urgency paid dividends when Robertson unfairly brought down Vivek Singh in the penalty area. Tanmoy Ghosh stepped up to take the spot-kick but local boy Mithun Samanta emerged the hero of the situation as he pulled off good save denying Ghosh’s feeble attempt.
It was curtains for the CFL side who lost their golden chance to equalise from the spot. But they continued the fight till the final whistle, but it was not enough against a professional Real Kashmir side.
The Snow Leopards became the 46th club to clinch the IFA Shield, a tournament which is rich in legacy. A win in this tournament will also put them in great stead ahead of the I-League season.
- Man of the Match (FINAL): Mithun Samanta (GK, RKFC)
- PK Banerjee Memorial Award for Best Coach: Ranjan Bhattacharya, Coach, George Telegraph SC
- Best Footballer of The Tournament: Mason Robertson, Real Kashmir FC
- Rony Roy Memorial Award for Fair Play: Real Kashmir