Sikkim Himalayan beat Royal FC to reach historic Gold Cup final

GANGTOK, SIKKIM: Sikkim Himalayan FC became the only second team in the history to reach the final of Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup when they beat Royal FC 3-1 in the first semifinal of the 2019 edition of the competition on Saturday at Paljor Stadium in Gangtok.

Uttam Rai (39th), John Kane (89th) and Eugene Nimako (90+5th) were on target for Sikkim Himalayan while Adarsh Tamang (54th) scored for Royal FC.

Sikkim Himalayan started the game with the confidence that had seen them beating one of the pre-tournament favorites Gokulam Kerala in the quarter final. John Kane was pulling the strings in midfield dictating the tempo of the game.

For the first time in this tournament, Royal FC looked really uncomfortable and were forced to passing mistakes by the high pressing Sikkim Himalayan who seemed to have done their homework on the Siliguri-based side.

Whenever Royal FC had the ball, Sikkim Himalayan pressed high, shutting spaces between them and making it difficult for them to play their usual passing game.

That’s not to say Royal FC didn’t have their chances. There were several occasions when they broke past the back-line and threatened 1v1 with Sikkim Himalayan custodian Urgen Pintso, however were either snapped for offside or failed to be as lethal as they needed to be in front of goal.

Inevitably, failing to convert their chances came back to haunt Royal FC as Sikkim Himalayan took the lead in the 39th minute after Sanjay Chhetri crossed the ball brilliantly with his left foot to Uttam Rai in the middle, who controlled it amazingly with his right and shoot with the same foot to make it 1-0.

Sikkim Himalayan’s spirits were lifted by the goal and they played out the final moments of the first-half with a lot of energy, which they brought with them when they returned from the break.

But they weren’t the only ones. Determined to make a comeback, Royal FC fought hard to not only keep themselves in the match but to try and find a goal which would tilt them back in the contest.

Royal FC’s efforts were soon rewarded when Adarsh Tamang curled in a picturous free-kick from edge of the box to restore the parity in the 54th minute.

Nonetheless, Sikkim Himalayan continued to have the majority of possession and chances in front of goal with John Kane combining well with Eugene Nimako and Uttam Rai to create opportunities they were often unlucky not to score from.

Royal FC defence looked comfortable in absorbing Sikkim Himalayan’s attacking pressure, while looking to catch their opponents off-guard on the counter but between some solid defending and the safe hands of Urgen, the attackers were unable to get an edge on their opponent.

With time running out and the game heading towards extra time, Sikkim Himalayan reclaimed their lead in the 89th minute when John Kane find the net with a clinical header at the end of a determined run and cross by Uttam Rai from the left.

With referee signalling six minutes of stoppage time Royal FC threw everything they had to get back into the game, however Sikkim Himalayan flexed their scoring muscles once again with Eugene Nimako tapping in from close range to put the result beyond any doubt.

Sikkim Himalayan will face the winner of second semifinal between Mohammedan Sporting Club and Sikkim Police.

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