Shillong, Dec 2: A late goal saw NEROCA take a 2-1 victory over Shillong Lajong FC in the third North East derby of I-League 2018-19 at the JN Stadium here today.
Felix Chidi put NEROCA into the lead in the 33rd minute with a header off a cross before Lajong’s Phrangki Buam equalised in the 48th. Chidi then provided an assist for man-of-the-match Subhash Singh to score the winner in the 82nd minute.
There was just the one change in Lajong’s starting lineup, with Rakesh Pradhan coming in for Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri in defence. For the visiting side coach Manuel Retamero made four changes. Lalit Thapa replaced Mauro Boerchio in goal, while Eduardo Soares, Katsumi Yusa and Thangjam Saran Singh came in place of Shaikhom Ronald Singh, Naorem Tondomba Singh and Sushil Meitei.
More than 100 travelling fans from Manipur made their presence felt from the start, waving their garishly orange flags.
Within 30 seconds of the first whistle NEROCA had their opening chance, Subhash taking the ball off Lalawmpuia Hnamte, going into the box and trying to lob goalkeeper Neithovilie Chalieu, but the goalie fingertipped the ball onto the crossbar and collected the rebound, which fell back into play close to the goalmouth.
More chances were created by NEROCA, who were denied in a double opportunity by Chalieu and Aiban Dohling in the 10th minute, and Chidi then went just wide with a header in the 17th. The Nigerian would not make the same mistake in the 33rd minute, however, when he headed in a cross at the near post just past Chalieu’s left.
Lajong had their first chance only in the 19th minute when Lalawmpuia put in a through ball for Buam, but the latter blazed it over the bar. That was pretty much the only thing that Lalawmpuia did right and he was substituted for Naorem Mahesh Singh in the 36th minute.
NEROCA went into the half time break in the lead, but only narrowly, and they were a little lackadaisical early on in the second 45 minutes.
A lazy giveaway of the ball in the 48th minute saw Naorem feed the ball to Buam on the right, and the No. 14 made his way into the box and took a blinder of a right-footer to equalise proceedings.
That seemed to wake up the visitors, but momentum was with SLFC and it was a very even second half with both sides battling valiantly to take the lead.
Further good goalkeeping was also seen, evidenced by Chalieu’s block off a strong attempt by Malemnganba Meitei in the 53rd minute and by Thapa, who put out a wonderful header by Dohling, who had come forward for a Lajong free-kick, 10 minutes later.
Thapa then made an absolute stunner of a save in the 75th minute, getting to a curling right-footed delivery by Samuel Lalmuanpuia with his fingertips.
It was end-to-end action in the last 15 minutes but it was the Manipur side that found the breakthrough and it came in the 82nd minute when Chidi flicked a long ball for Subhash to hammer low and into the corner of the Lajong net. This was the second time in consecutive years that Subhash has scored against his former club and it was enough to see NEROCA to victory in front of their delirious fans.
It was a good performance for the Reds, but it is still yet another defeat; they have now lost five of their seven games this season.
Lajong: Rakesh Pradhan, Lalrohlua, Nabin Rabha (sub, Hardycliff Nongbri 86′), Samuel Lalmuanpuia (C), Samuel Lyngdoh Kynshi (sub, Bonison Nongmaithem 77′), Phrangki Buam, Novin Gurung, Lalawmpuia Hnamte (sub, Naorem Mahesh Singh, 36′), Aibanbha Dohling, Neithovilie Chalieu (GK), Kenstar Kharshong
NEROCA: Eduardo Soares, Varney Kallon, Ashok Singh Moirangmayum, Katsumi Yusa (sub, Shaikhom Ronald Singh 86′), Felix Chidi, Subhash Singh (sub, Sushil Meitei 90+2), Lalit Thapa (C, GK), Malemnganba Meitei, Sebastian Thangmuansang, Thangjam Saran Singh (sub, Naorem Tondomba Singh, 79′), Aryn Williams