Dishing out a strong performance, the national football federation developmental side Indian Arrows held hosts Neroca to a goalless draw in a I-League match in Imphal on Tuesday.
The Arrows defended stoutly to deny Neroca on several occasions at the Khuman Lampak Stadium.
Neroca, with the draw, now have 12 points from as many games while Arrows continue to hold the last position with eight points from 11 matches.
The first half of the match failed to produce much action as Neroca players found it difficult to break a resilient Arrows defence.
Arrows held 52 per cent of ball possession in the first half but failed to find the net despite having seven shots out of which only one was on target and that came from a free-kick by Ayush Adhikari in the 42nd minute.
But the shot was directed straight at the Neroca captain Marvin Devon Phillip in the goal who blocked it easily.
The first half witnessed a lot of battles in the midfield, resulting in fewer goal scoring opportunities.
The first major opportunity of the match came in the 49th minute from a long throw for the Arrows. Vikram Partap got a clear header but it lacked direction and went over the goal.
Neroca then got a chance to break the deadlock when their winter recruit, Imran Khan, flicked the ball into the Arrows box and second-half substitute Ronald Singh latched on to it, putting it past the Arrows keeper, only to be denied by a goal-line clearance.
Arrows were also making more progress in the match as the Neroca defence was opening up time and again.
In the 62nd minute, Ayush Adhikari’s perfect through ball found an unmarked Suranjit Singh but the young winger’s shot went past the far post.
In the 80th minute, the hosts got a great chance when Ghanaian, Philip Adjah came up with a long-distance shot but an acrobatic Jongte in Arrows goal denied him a goal.
The last few moments of the match belonged to the young Arrows.
In the 82nd minute, Rohit Danu was one-on-one with Marvin Devon Phillip, but his strike was brilliantly saved by the Neroca captain.
The last major action of the game came in deep into stoppage time, when a through ball by Ricky Shabong found Vikram Pratap on the left flank and the latter came up with a low shot on the near post but was again denied by the Neroca keeper.
Super sub Kanoute
Later in the day, Aizawl FC registered a solid 2-0 win against Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. Second-half substitute Abdoulaye Kanoute’s brace sealed the three points for the hosts, giving them their first home win of the season.
Aizawl dominated possession in the first half but lacked inspiration upfront.
TRAU struggled to pose any threat and were lucky not to go behind in the 31st minute, when Paul Ramfangzuava’s delightful lob found William Lalnunfela, who chested it down beautifully before cutting across Deepak Devrani. But his Mithun Samanta came up with a spectacular save to deny him.
Samanta produced another good save five minutes later to keep out Matt Veron’s left-footed drive and keep the scores level at the break.
The second half was mostly cagey but sprung into life in the final 15 minutes.
TRAU almost went ahead through skipper Princewill Emeka but his audacious half-volley skimmed past the post.
In the 76th minute, Lalthlalova’s immaculate cross from the left found substitute Kanoute, who rose above Devrani to chest home the nerve-settler.
Eleven minutes later, Aizawl skipper Alfred Jaryan’s freekick rattled in off the underside of the crossbar and hit Samanta’s back. Kanoute was lurking at the right place at the right time and put the ball into the net to secure three points for his side.
Aizawl, with this result, take their tally to 14 points to move into sixth while TRAU remain in fourth place on the points table with one point more than the Mizo side.
(With PTI and AIFF inputs)