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Imphal, February 21, 2020
Neroca pipped Gokulam Kerala 3-2 in an enthralling 90 minutes of pulsating football to come out of the relegation zone of the Hero I-League at the Khuman Lampak Stadium here today.
Pritam Singh drew first blood for Neroca in as early as the second minute before Shibil Muhammed restored parity for Gokulam Kerala FC in the 25th minute. The visitors took the lead, for the first time, through Nataniel Garcia in the 40th minute.
After the breather, Neroca came from behind to equalise in the 48th minute through Philip Adjah. Neroca FC scored their third goal, nine minutes to the end of the regulation time, through Ronald Singh to register a much-needed. Neroca’s Pritam Singh Ningthoujam was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match.
Neroca FC started pressing hard for an early lead from the get-go. Neroca’s initial surge paid dividends very early when a mistimed clearance by the visitors saw the ball land in front of Pritam Ningthoujam who made no mistake in slotting it home in the second minute.
Neroca, with this early lead, continued their pressing game, however, Gokulam showed resilience to keep the scoreboard unchanged. Gokulam reorganised themselves and thereafter, started attacking the Manipuri boys. Soon, in the 25th minute, a through ball from Marcus Joseph to Shibil Muhammed saw the latter make no mistake in restoring parity for the visitors.
Gokulam, with this lease of life, started their trademark passing game all over the pitch. Marcus Joseph, Nataniel Garcia and Atuheire Kipson kept pressing hard for the visitors keeping the lacklustre Neroca defence on their toes. The Kerala outfit took the lead in the 40th minute when a short cross from Marcus Joseph saw Nataniel Garcia shooting a belter of a shot to score their second goal.
The first 45 minutes ended with the hosts trailing 1-2 to Gokulam Kerala.
The second half started with Neroca continuing their resurgence for the equaliser against a visibly-jittery Gokulam defence. Their efforts soon paid dividends when Sebastian’s throw to Irshad was anticipated rightly by Neroca’s Philip Adjah. The astute striker crafted a beautiful goal in the 48th minute to cancel the visitors’ lead.
Neroca, thereafter, shifted the gear but the finesse in front of the opposition goal was missing. Gokulam coach Fernando Varela introduced Henry Kisseka early into the second half. The change added pace and vigour but they could not see things off as desired.
Neroca boss Gift Rai Khan threw the last dice with a couple of changes in the final 10 minutes, having introduced Chanso Horam and Siam Hangal replacing Subash Singh and Busai Attila. This change yielded the result for the hosts immediately when Chanso’s cross, which was sloppily defended by Jestin George, landed straight into the feet of Ronald Singh.
Ronald bulldozed the ball into the back of the net to earn the lead for Neroca in the 81st minute. The game thereafter saw Gokulam making a few attempts to score the equaliser but the Orange army saw off the dangers calmly.