NEROCA FC played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Chennai City FC at an empty Khuman Lumpak Stadium on Saturday to secure a vital point in its relegation battle.
The host went ahead in the blink of an eye, after Khanngam Horam found the net just 21 seconds after kick-off, registering the quickest goal of this season. Mashoor Sheriff equalised for the visitor midway through the first half before Miranda nicked the lead just moments before the break. Philip Adjah, however, saved the day for the north-eastern side, converting a penalty in added time.
Adjah took his chances early into the game closing Chennai's Nauzet Santana down. The Spaniard committed a rare goalkeeping error during an attempted clearance and the ricochet fell to Horam, who made no mistake whatsoever.
NEROCA’s lacklustre man-marking came back to haunt the side again as Chennai found its way back not long after, in the 21st minute. Skipper Roberto Eslava found Katsumi Yusa inside the box and the veteran headed across goal to find Mashoor Sheriff, who had the simple job of tapping in the equaliser.
In the 32nd minute, the host earned a penalty for a handball by Charles Anandraj. Subash Singh took the responsibility but Santana redeemed himself and made amends for his earlier gaffe, guessing the right way to keep it out.
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Miranda, who had missed a catalogue of chances towards the end of the half, struck in the dying seconds of stoppage time. Katsumi led Chennai on the counter and the danger seemed to have fizzled out when Taryk Sampson stopped the Japanese playmaker on his tracks. Miranda remained persistent and aided by some questionable defending from Ousmane Diawara, he tried his luck from distance and beat Bishorjit Singh in goal stranded, courtesy of a deflection.
The heist was, however, spoilt in the 90th minute, after second-half substitute, Jishnu Balakrishnan tripped over Imran Khan inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Adjah stepped up this time and with fine aplomb, notched his ninth goal this term.
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