Singam Subash Singh scored a brace to help Neroca FC register a 2-1 win over Indian Arrows and move up to the second position in the I-League.
A first-half double by Subash Singh helped Neroca, who outplayed a young Indian Arrows side for the majority of the game at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal.
Birthday boy Abhijit Sarkar scored a late consolation goal for the Arrows but it couldn’t deter the Gift Raikhan-coached team from bagging all three points at home.
Young Prabshukhan Singh Gill continued to stand in between the posts for the Arrows. Up front, Rahim Ali was deployed centrally and had support from Nongdamba Naorem and Rahul KP on the flanks.
Nigerian striker Felix Chidi lead the line for the home side, with Akhlidin Israilov in the attacking midfielder position. Seasoned striker Subash Singh started the game on the left wing.
Felix Chidi was at the forefront of most of Neroca’s forays forward. The Nigerian striker, at the half-hour mark, attempted an audacious overhead kick on Yumnam Singh’s cross from the right. He failed to connect properly and Prabshukhan heaved a sigh of relief.
Neroca’s efforts paid off in the 39th minute. Akhlidin Israilov released a well-weighted through-ball into the path of Subash Singh who chipped Prabshukhan with aplomb. Subash Singh doubled his tally at the stroke of half-time with another confident finish and this time, it was Felix Chidi who turned provider.
Chidi split the Arrows defence and the Manipur-born forward slotted the ball into the net to end the half with a two-goal lead for Neroca.
Subash Singh sliced a cross into the box wide of goal in the 53rd minute as the home side kept up the pressure. Akhlidin Israilov, the playmaker from the Kyrgyz Republic, almost made it 3-0 as his piledriver from outside the box struck the crossbar soon after the hour-mark.
Arrows full-back Boris Singh surged forward and chipped a cross into the centre of the box from the right flank in the 75th minute. But it failed to reach the intended target, much like most of the Arrows’ deliveries into the box on the day.
Boris Singh’s late sliding tackle on substitute Nedo Turkovic in the 82nd minute resulted in a spot-kick for the home side. Fabien Vorbe hit the net initially but was asked to take it again by the referee as Kallon crossed the line before the kick was taken. On the second go, he struck the bar preventing further misery for the Arrows.
Arrows substitute Abhijit Sarkar tapped in Rahul KP’s cross to conjure some hope for his side in the dying minutes but it was too late for a comeback as Neroca pocketed full points.
With this win, Neroca FC leapfrogged Minerva Punjab to the second spot with 14 points from seven matches whereas Indian Arrows will stay at the seventh position with as many points but having played one match more.
Indian Arrows will now travel to Shillong to play Shillong Lajong on January 8 and Neroca FC will travel to Coimbatore to clash against Chennai City one day later.