By R Elahi
SRINAGAR: The last round of JKFA Professional League 2021 matches were played on Saturday at the Synthetic Turf TRC in Srinagar.
The final day fixtures included J&K Bank XI vs Kashmir Avengers FC and a battle for the 2nd position between Hyderya Sports FC and Downtown Heroes FC.
The unbeaten J&K Bank side played a customary match knowing well they had already secured the 1st position. For Kashmir Avengers the match up was a test against a formidable opponent in which only a win could take them into the top half of the table.
The match started gingerly for the Avengers as Bank XI dominated the possession and created opportunities. But as the minutes ticked off on the clock, the Avengers became more composed in their defending, earning a 0:0 half time score in the process.
The second half began on the same note as the first but in the 75th minute the J&K Bank side scored through Faisal Thakur to take the lead. The goal led to Kashmir Avengers creating goal-scoring chances of their own, scoring the leveller through Saqib in the 80th minute. The match ended in a 1:1 draw, a first for the Bank XI side who had won 6 out of 6 of their other Pro League matches. Saqib of Kashmir Avengers FC was man of the match.
The second match of the day between I-League 2nd Division aspirants Hyderya Sports FC and Downtown Heroes FC was billed as the most important match of the 19 days and 28 matches long Professional League.
A victory for Downtown Heroes FC, 5th in the table with 10 points, would have lifted them above Hyderya Sports FC, who sat 2nd on the table with 12 points. With Lonestar Kashmir already finishing their campaign on 10 points, a draw for Downtown Heroes would have been enough to help them leapfrog their nearest rival. For Lonestar KFC, who were ahead of Downtown Heroes via goal difference, a Hyderya victory was the only way to qualify.
Kashmir province’s Divisional Commissioner, PK Pole was the chief guest on the occasion and took the field before kick off, along with other JKFA and JKSC officials and dignitaries, to meet and greet the players of the two clubs.
The match started on high expectations as the jam-packed TRC football ground buzzed in anticipation. Not willing to leave their fate in the hands of lady luck, the Downtown Heroes played attacking football from the get-go – creating chances and dominating possession in the process. Hyderya Sports players expertly handled the pressure and defended in droves to ward off any attack on their goal.
In a nerve-wrecking fixture both Hyderya and the Heroes showed composure and experience to make sure there were no defensive errors. Ensuring the first half ended 0:0.
The second half of the match progressed similarly to the first with Downtown Heroes creating chances and Hyderya Sports defending astutely. The match ended 0:0 with TRC’s flood lights in full glare. Metro Melvin was declared as man of the match
The JKFA held the awards function after the match and presented J&K Bank XI with the Professional League 2021 trophy. Donning all-blue, the triumphant J&K Bank players lifted the cup to a round of warm applause from the spectators.
The jubilant Hyderya Sports FC players also received their runner-up medals and trophy.
Aakif Javaid Reshi of J&K Bank was awarded Highest Scorer award. Malik Sahil Khursheed of Real Kashmir FC received the best Emerging Player award.
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