I-League: Neroca FC settles for 1-1 draw against EB in final tie

Thanks to its seasoned captain Lalit Thapa's valiant show under the bar, Neroca thwarted a series of attacks from the host and finished its campaign with 32 points.

Neroca FC, which got promoted to the I-League after topping the second division league the previous season, did not want to hamper its chances of a better finish.   -  AIFF

Founded more than half-a-century ago, Manipuri outfit Neroca FC curbed East Bengal's aggression to settle for a 1-1 draw, at the Salt Lake Stadium here, and secure a creditable second place finish in the I-League, on Thursday.

Thanks to its seasoned captain Lalit Thapa's valiant show under the bar, Neroca thwarted a series of attacks from the host and finished its campaign with 32 points.

Neroca, which got promoted to the I-League after topping the second division league the previous season, did not want to hamper its chances of a better finish.

READ: Minerva Punjab FC clinches I-League title

In the first half-hour, Neroca's defence did not rise to the challenge, but it was Thapa, who checked the rampaging red-and-gold strikers to keep the post safe.

East Bengal's foreign brigade, including the live-wire Japanese Katsumi Yusa, who was brought down thrice in 20 minutes, Syrian play-maker Al Amna and Nigerian shooter Dudu Omagbemi, along with some Indian suppliers, left the Neroca back-line breathless with incessant raids.

Despite some excellent moves and superb set-ups, East Bengal could not take the lead due to several instances of poor finishing, highlighted by Dudu bungling at least two clear-cut chances.

ALSO READ: Delhi Dynamos announces squad for I-League second division

East Bengal was in further trouble when Felix Chidi banked on a through ball from Nick Ward to hand Neroca the lead in the 42nd minute.

East Bengal scored the equaliser when Dudu, who missed another fine opportunity after the change of ends, finally found the mark with a spectacular header off Lalram Chullova's cross from the left.

The home side's search for the winner was in vain as 'Hero of the match' Thapa stood his ground despite receiving medical attention for his painful legs. The Neroca defence, which looked more organised under the leadership of Govin Singh, supported the keeper to prevent further damage. Neroca was lucky not to concede a 90th minute penalty because of a 'handball' inside its box.

ALSO READ: Michael Soosairaj: ‘Looking forward to the Super Cup’

East Bengal took the fourth place behind arch-rival Mohun Bagan. The Kolkata giant was tied on 31 points, but Bagan had a better head-to-head record.

The result: East Bengal 1 (Dudu 73) drew with Neroca FC 1 (Felix 42).

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :