Neroca FC registered their first win of this I-League season by beating former champions Aizawl FC 1-0 at the Khuman Lampak ground in Imphal on Friday.
Ousmane Diawara scored the all-important goal in the 28th minute to give the home side all three points. Neroca had lost 1-2 to Gokulam Kerala in their campaign opener.
Aizawl FC, who dominated possession, failed to convert any of their 15 shots in the match.
The first big chance of the first half came in the 13th minute for the home team but Chanso Horam, who had a clear sight of goal, failed to convert the same.
Neroca FC were slowly growing in confidence and created another chance from the right side but Khaiminthang Lhungdim fired it into the side-netting in the 22nd minute.
The defining moment of the game came in the 27th minute when Neroca got a free-kick just outside the 18-yard box. Zodingliana’s thunderous left-footed kick hit the goal post and Ousmane Diawara capitalised to put the ball in the back of the net on the rebound.
In the 34th minute, Aizawl FC’s Paul Ramfangzauva forced a fine save off Neroca FC goalkeeper who dived to his right and made a tremendous save to keep his team’s lead intact.
With just a few seconds remaining in the first half, Neroca got another chance to double their lead but the shot on goal by Chanso Horam was deflected from the body of an Aizawl FC defender for a corner.
After the changeover, Aizawl threatened to equalise from a corner but the resulting header was cleared by the Neroca defence on the goal line. In the 66th minute, Aizawl brought on Lalhmangaihkima for William Lalnunfela in order to provide better supply to Abdoulaye Kanoute.
Responding to the changes, Neroca made a tactical substitution by bringing on midfielder Ronald Singh for Khaiminthang Lhungdim.
Aizawl FC pushed for the equaliser but were not able to break the Neroca defence. Although, the away team came very close to clinching an equaliser in the dying moments but the shot from the outside of the box rattled the Neroca goal post and went out.
Gokulam Kerala win
In the second game of the day, Ugandan forward Henry Kisekka’s clinical finish helped title contenders Gokulam Kerala FC beat Indian Arrows side by a solitary goal at Tilak Maidan in Goa on Friday.
The Arrows gave the in-form Gokulam a mighty scare, particularly after the Malabarians had to play the last 15 minutes of the match with 10 men.
Gokulam coach Valera played both Kisekka and Trinidadian captain Marcus Joseph upfront while Arrows’ new coach Shanmugam Venkatesh also began with a regulation 4-4-2, with Vikram Partap Singh and Aman Chetri upfront.
Gokulam started strongly and both Joseph and Kisekka missed a couple of sitters in the opening 20 minutes of the game. The Arrows, however, found their groove by then and Vikram Partap was impressive with his surging runs down the right.
By the time the first half ended, Gokulam were left wondering what they needed to do to break down the young Arrows as their goal was being manned more-than-ably by the young Samik Mitra, who also had a confident first 45 minutes.
After the breather, and against the run of play, Gokulam took the lead within five minutes of the resumption. A long ball found Kisekka on the top of the Arrows box on the right. The Ugandan got away from his markers in a flash and neatly placed the ball at the left-hand corner of the Arrows net.
In the 76th minute, a wonderful Gokulam move resulted in a Joseph header deflecting off an Arrows defender and going in, but Samik brought off a brilliant save.
Five minutes later, Etienne brought down an onrushing Aman Chetri after the young forward had dispossessed him in-front of goal and was headed towards it. With just the keeper ahead, the referee had no option but to give marching orders to the burly Trinidadian centre-back.
Gokulam have won both their opening games and now sit pretty on top of the table with six points.