Spectators at the Khuman Lumpak Stadium, Imphal – hosts to the 55th game of the Hero I-League 2019 – witnessed a high-scoring game as hosts NEROCA FC remained unbeaten at home, defeating a young Shillong Lajong FC 3-2.
NEROCA drew first blood through a penalty from Katsumi Yusa on the eighth minute followed by their second goal in the 21st minute from Singham Subash Singh, who was also adjudged the Hero of the Match.
NEROCA’s third goal in the 55th minute was a result of an own goal from Lajong captain Aiban Dohling. The visitors got their two hard-earned goals through a penalty from Sheen in the 53rd minute, followed by a screamer from Phrangki Buam on the 89th.
Shillong started on an attacking note, but their lack of experience was clearly visible when a possible chance in the first few minutes could not be converted to their favour. NEROCA FC, who were clearly playing with a much better flair, overpowered the young guns from Lajong.
A silly tackle inside the box in the seventh minute from Lajong’s captain Dohling Aiban on Katsumi Yusa led to a penalty being awarded to the hosts. Katsumi thereafter made no mistakes in finding the back of the net giving NEROCA FC a much needed early lead in the game.
A shift in gears by NEROCA changed the game somewhat, as the hosts kept attacking in short intervals, keeping the Lajong defenders on their toes. NEROCA forwards Kastumi Yusa and Subash Singh were in their elements on the day with able support from Aryn Williams and Malem.
However, some really close chances for the hosts could not really see them doubling their lead untill the 21st minute when an outstanding run followed by a cross from Katrsumi Yusa to Subash Singh saw the latter make no mistakes in doubling the lead for the hosts in an authoritative manner.
The young Shillong Lajong players slowly tried coming back to terms with some well-planned counters but their lack of creativity in the final third prevented them from reducing the two-goal deficit. The closest that the visitors got to scoring was in the 38th minute, when Sheen failed to convert from an outstanding pass from Mahesh Naorem Singh. NEROCA FC showcased their authority on the game, edging out Shillong Lajong in the first 45 minutes with a 2-0 lead.
The second half began with Lajong pressing hard as expected. However, the experienced hosts ensured that the young visitors do not get any clear chance to narrow the two-goal deficit. Lajong, who are known for their go-getter attitude, soon earned their rewards when a solo run from Naorem Mahesh was put to stop from an unnecessary foul from NEROCA’s Sebsatian Zoe inside the NEROCA box.
The referee took no time in awarding a penalty to Shillong, which Sheen Lalit Thapa saved, before Sheen converted it on the rebound.
NEROCA, however, went for a counter and eventually found the back of the net minutes later thanks to an own goal from Shillong Lajong FC captain Dohling Aiban in the 55th minute taking the score to 3-1.
Lajong thereafter made numerous attempts to further reduce the deficit, but a lack of finishing and NEROCA FC’s strong defence line prevented them. NEROCA FC, however, were equal culprits of missing a few clear chances to score which could have given them a heavy cushion in the game.
Shillong Lajong FC, who were clearly edged out, however, found their space on the 89th minute through a screamer from Phrangki Buam, reducing their deficit to a single goal. Their attempts to finish the match on level terms were in vain as NEROCA FC held on to the lead.
With this win, NEROCA once again draw level with Chennai City on 21 points at the top of the table. However, Chennai are ahead by dint of a better head-to-head record.