Aizawl FC beat Neroca FC 2-1 in its fifth round I-League fixture at the Mohun Bagan Ground here on Saturday.
MC Malsawmzuala scored the winner in the 56th minute after Judah Emmanuel Garcia had cancelled PC Laldinpuia’s first-half header.
With the victory, the Mizo team now moves up the table with seven points and is placed four points behind leader Churchill Brothers with one game in hand.
Neroca, which came into the match after a 4-1 defeat against Gokulam Kerala, started with attacking intent and, within three minutes, had two chances to score.
Aizawl settled in after the early scare and threatened the Neroca goal through a number of corners.
Aizawl kept threatening and was rewarded for their efforts in the 37th minute. An inswinging cross delivered by Malsawmtluanga was met by Laldinpuia, who sent his header past a stranded Bishorjit Singh in the Neroca goal.
The former champions almost doubled their lead in the 40th minute through Jaryan, but Bishorjit had no trouble in dealing with the shot, ensuring that his team went into half time with a single goal deficit.
Neroca returned with vigour after the break and levelled the score through Judah Emmanuel Garcia just before the 50th minute mark.
Songpu Singsit turned past his man in the centre of the park and found Garcia in space. The Trinidad and Tobago striker took a couple of touches before releasing a low powerful shot from outside the area, which zoomed past Lalmuansanga in goal.
With the scores equal, both teams started to attack with intent and this opened up the game.
Nathaniel Jude Garcia almost gave the Manipuri team the lead in the 55th minute, but his long-range freekick struck the top of the crossbar.
The third goal of the game came in the 56th minute and it was the former I-League champion which grabbed the lead for the second time.
A cross from the right flank caused panic inside the Neroca box and as the goalkeeper failed to deal with the long ball, MC Zuala headed the loose ball into an empty net to make it 2-1 in favour of Aizawl.
In another match, Gokulam Kerala FC held Real Kashmir FC to a goalless draw at the Kalyani Stadium on Saturday.
High on confidence after downing Neroca FC 4-1 in its previous outing, Gokulam made a strong bid for its second successive win but failed to breach the target despite earning a few good opportunities. Gokulam tallied seven points from two wins and draw in five matches to stay in contention for the championship round slot. Real Kashmir netted six points from four matches.
Aizawl FC 2 (P.C. Laldinpuia 37, M.C. Malsawmzuala 56) bt Neroca FC 1 (Emmanuel Garcia 49).
Gokulam Kerala FC 0 drew with Real Kashmir FC 0.
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