Neroca held by Aizawl, suffers jolt to title hopes

Neroca and Aizawl played out a goalless draw in the I-League on Saturday.

Action from the I-League encounter between Aizawl FC and NEROCA FC on Saturday. (File Image)

Neroca FC’s title aspirations suffered a jolt as it was held to a goal-less draw by Aizawl FC in their crucial I-League match on Saturday. In a closely contested tie, both sides failed to score despite many opportunities.

Neroca had two clear chances, one at the stroke of half time, which Nedo Turkovic failed to convert, and another deep into the match that was wasted by Felix Chidi. Aizawl striker Zikahi Leonce Dodoz had a golden chance to hand his side full three points in the second minute of the stoppage time, but his shot missed the target.

With the draw, Neroca remained on second spot in the league table with 28 points from 15 matches, one point less than table topper Minerva Punjab. However, the crucial point remains that Minerva has played two matches lesser than Neroca. Aizawl, which had lost to Neroca 1-2 in the first leg, remained on sixth spot with 17 points from 13 matches.

READ: Top-scorer Dicka left in the lurch by Indian football

Gift Raikhan made three changes to his side that beat Gokulam Kerala 1-0. Dhananjoy Singh, Aryn Glen Williams and Pritam Singh were replaced by Govin Singh Moirangthem, Nedo Turkovic and Yumnam Gopi Singh respectively. As for the visiting side, Lalrosanga, Albert Zohmingmawia and Yugo Kobayashi were replaced by Lalthathanga Khawlhring, David Lalrinmuana and Shylo Mamsawmtluanga.

Felix threatened to score in the early stages of the game. The Nigerian striker stole the ball from Masih Saighani before storming into the box and feeding Gopi, who failed to connect properly, allowing goalie Avilash Paul to come out and avert danger.

Afghanistan’s Saighani played the match hours after landing here from Guwahati. He was handed the PAP (Protected Area Permit) yesterday only by the Home Ministry, which allowed him to travel to Imphal and play the match.

Aizawl’s David Lalrinmuana’s corner-kick past the half-hour mark caused havoc inside the Neroca box, but Leonce Dodoz failed to keep his shot on target.

The biggest opening of the half fell to Neroca at the stroke of half-time. A beautiful cross from the right fell to an unmarked Nedo Turkovic inside the box, but the 28-year-old striker somehow missed a tap-in from close-range to keep the scoreline intact.

Both sides had chances at the hour-mark when Chidi’s long-range effort scraped the post before flying wide and Ionescu’s cross fell to David, whose attempt at goal had the Neroca goalkeeper tracking back to his line as the ball flew over the bar.

Lalrinmuana’s shot at goal in the 73rd minute found the Neroca net but it had taken an off-side touch as it flew through the crowded penalty box, forcing the referee to rule out a potential opener.

The game ended without a goal as both sides failed to finish off chances despite having plenty of chances throughout.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :