Neroca halts Churchill's unbeaten run

Goalkeeper Bishorjit put up a brave performance as Neroca ended Churchill Brothers' unbeaten run with a 1-0 win in the I-league on Tuesday.

Action from the I-League clash between Neroca FC and Churchill Brothers FC on Tuesday.   -  AIFF Media

A heroic performance from Neroca goalkeeper Bishorjit Singh guided the side to a 1-0 win over Churchill Brothers in their I-League encounter at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Tuesday.

Felix Odili scored a penalty and Bishorjit stood tall between the posts to register a much-needed victory after suffering back-to-back defeats back at home.

Churchill named an unchanged squad that had beaten Indian Arrows 2-0 while Neroca coach Gift Raikhan made three changes, with Saran Singh, Pritam Singh and Dhananjoy Singh coming into the playing eleven.

Pritam made an immediate impact as he drew a double save from Churchill custodian James Kithan in the 8th minute. Offensively, Neroca was the busier team early on as it fired from all angles but most of its efforts were off target.

The side finally managed to find a breakthrough when Churchill's fullback Wayne Vaz brought down Subash Singh in the box as the forward was racing down the left and the referee didn’t hesitate to award them a spot-kick in the 21st minute.

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Odili stepped up and coolly steered the ball under the outstretched arms of Kithan as the visitor took the lead in the 22nd minute. The home side then had to make a forced substitution when Uttam Rai injured himself and Israil Gurung replaced him.

The Red Machines tried to get back into the game and tried to deliver long balls to Koffi Mechac and Dawda Cissey in the middle from the middle of the pitch, but Neroca centrebacks Gouramani Singh and Varney Kallon aided by their full-backs stood tall.

After a long passage of play that saw Churchill’s Denechandram Meetei pick up a yellow card, Churchill had its first goal-scoring opportunity in the 44th minute. Some slick interchanges of passes saw Koffi try to beat Neroca goalkeeper Bishorjit at the farthest corner but missed by a whisker.

After the changeover, Churchill Brothers started to dominate the game. It had a great chance when Meetei put a delicious low cross into the box that was not read by the Neroca keeper and Gurung almost steered it into the net only to be denied by some last-ditch clearance.

Churchill was on the ascendancy and turned the screws on Neroca. Bishorjit had to make a timely save to deny P. M. Britto who tried to curl a shot into the net from 12 yards out. Meetei also tried a shot from distance that swerved away from goal. Then came a series of attempts from a corner when Osagie Monday, Ceesay and Eldor Hussein all tried to breach the Neroca backline but to no avail.

Koffi had a shot after chesting down a pass from the middle but Bishorjit dived in time to hold onto it. It was then the turn of Bektur Talgat to fire at goal but that was saved again.

Until the final whistle, Neroca hanged on to its slender lead and clinched all three points to close the gap with leader Minerva Punjab FC, which is now 2 points ahead of Raikhan’s boys having played two matches fewer.

Churchill will face another daunting task in three days when it hosts Minerva, while Neroca hosts Gokulam Kerala FC on February 4th.

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