I-League: Draw with Aizawl jolts Neroca's title hopes
Imphal: Debutants Neroca FC squandered an opportunity to provisionally go top of the table as they were held to an entertaining 0-0 draw by defending champions Aizawl FC in an I-League encounter at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium here on Saturday.
In front of 20,345 vociferous spectators, the home team were guilty of wasting a flurry of chances on either side of
half-time as they had to be content with one point which meant they remained second in the points table with 28 points from 15 games.
Neroca's hopes of winning the I-League also suffered a jolt as they only have three more matches to go, including a difficult away fixture against East Bengal. Surprise league leaders Minerva Punjab FC have played a game less and are one point ahead of Neroca.
Aizawl, sixth in the points table, now have 17 points from 13 games. The hosts made three changes from their previous game as Dhananjoy Singh, Aryn Glen Williams and Pritam Singh made way for Govin Singh Moirangthem, Nedo Turkovic and Yumnam Gopi Singh respectively.
As for the visitors, Japanese Yugo Kobayashi's exclusion was surprising and hinted at coach Paulo Menezes taking a defensive approach.
Injured C Lalrosanga and Albert Zohmingmawia also did not take part with Lalthathanga Khawlhring, David Lalrinmuana and Shylo Mamsawmtluanga slotted in.
Neroca dominated proceedings in the opening exchanges. Their coach Gift Raikhan wanted to exploit Aizawl's weakness at the back with only one recognised centre back, Masih Saighani, starting for the defending champions. Saighani arrived on Saturday morning after getting the Protected Area Permit (PAP) required for Afghan nationals to enter the state of Manipur, on Friday evening.
Meanwhile, in another match, substitute Abhijit Sarkar scored two injury-time goals in as many minutes as Indian Arrows rallied to pull off a stunning 2-1 victory over Churchill Brothers in the I-League in Vasco on Saturday. Sarkar struck in the first (90+1) and third minute (90+3) of added time at the Tilak Maidan Stadium.
Dawda Ceesay had scored a first-half opener before a brace from Sarkar sealed three points for Indian Arrows.
Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos made two changes to his side as Nongdamba Naorem and Princeton Rebello came into the starting lineup.
Despite the early threat
from Arrows, it was Churchill who broke the deadlock through Ceesay.