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I-League: East Bengal scrape past 10-man Real Kashmir in ill-tempered clash

East Bengal, with a man advantage for more than half of the game, dominated possession with 63 per cent of the ball against Real Kashmir.

PTI | Srinagar |

East Bengal scraped past Real Kashmir 1-0 in an ill-tempered I-League clash in which two home team players and one from the visiting side were sent off here on Monday.

The lone goal was scored by Spaniard Victor Perez from a penalty in the fifth minute of added time, which secured vital three points for the Kolkata giants.

Unhappy with the overall refereeing during the match, the RKFC team management later lodged a complaint with the All India Football Federation.

The match played at the TRC ground in front of 10,000 spectators saw three red and several yellow cards. RKFC’s Danish Farooq, the local hero, and Kallum Higginbotham were sent off while Edmund Lalrindika was given the marching orders from the East Bengal team.

Expressing his disappointment, Real Kashmir FC co-owner Sandeep Chattoo said, “It is one of the most unfortunate losses for RKFC, where umpires failed us. The bias of the referee was clearly visible.”

“We will be appealing against the decisions of the referee to the AIFF. Match video is there for anyone to see how partial the referee was,” he said in a release issued by the club.

With the win, East Bengal rose to the second spot in the standings with 23 points from 16 matches, while fourth-placed Kashmir have 22 points from 15 games.

The win for the Red and Gold brigade means Mohun Bagan now only need two points to seal the league title, a feat that they can achieve on Tuesday with a victory against Aizawl FC.

The first half was majorly played in the centre. The half saw many heated moments, two yellow cards and a red card, all of them awarded to Real Kashmir.

Danish saw a second yellow in the 38th minute for diving simulation inside the opposition box. East Bengal, with a man advantage for more than half of the game, dominated possession with 63 per cent of the ball.

The game resumed and Real Kashmir showed great resilience. The Red and Golds had a good opportunity from a free-kick that was awarded to them just outside the Real Kashmir box.

However, the free-kick was saved by keeper Lachenpa. Soon after, it was Bidyashagar Singh who came up with a left-footed drive from a distance but the Real Kashmir keeper was able to deflect it out for a corner kick.

In the very last minute of regulation time, second-half substitute Lalrindika had a go from a distance but to the away team’s disappointment, the shot went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.

The labour of the Red and Gold brigade finally paid off in the injury time as Juan Mera was fouled in the box by Loveday Enyinnaya, which resulted in a penalty. Perez walked up to take the spot-kick and made no mistake as he smashed the ball into the back of the net to give his team the much needed goal.

After the goal, there was drama on the pitch with the players of both sides involved in a scuffle and the referee flashed two red cards in the final minutes. Higginbotham and Lalrindrika were sent off in a rather dramatic ending.

RKFC’s complaint included a statement of driver Riyaz Ahmed who had ferried the referees from a local hotel.

The driver alleged that the referees had a “conversation to teach RKFC a lesson” in Monday’s match.

Former minister and senior politician Usman Majid, who witnessed the match, expressed his disappointment with the refereeing.

“The people of Kashmir love sports but they cannot stand cheating which was blatant in today’s match. I have not seen sportsmanship stooping to such a low.

“I call upon the authorities to take strict action against the referees who have brought a bad name to the game and the league,” he said.