Neroca secures maiden I-League win, inflicts Gokulam's second defeat on home soil

Chidi, Pritam and Ronald were on the score sheet for the visiting team.

Thangjam Saran Singh (No. 24) of Neroca FC in action against Jimshad (No: 13) of Gokulam Kerala FC during the I-league football match at Corporation stadium in Kozhikode on Saturday. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Earlier this year, Neroca became the first team from the North East to win the I-League second division. Gokulam Kerala FC found out why on a sweltering Saturday afternoon at the Corporation Stadium.

The host was outplayed 0-3 in the clash between the I-League debutants, as Neroca registered its first win. For Gokulam, it was the second defeat in three matches; it has just the one point it got from the draw with Chennai City.

The men from Manipur had lost their first match, against Minerva Punjab, despite taking the lead. It was poor defending that cost them the match, coach Gift Raikhan had concluded.

Neroca seemed to have learnt its lesson from that defeat as it defended superbly and relied more on counter-attacks. The home defenders, on the other hand, had a match they would want to forget in a hurry.

Read: Gokulam, Neroca eye first I-League victory

The host had begun promisingly enough though, and even managed to move the net in the opening minute, but it was off-side. Neroca didn’t waste much time before attacking the rival goal and forced a goalline save by K. Mohamed Salah in the third minute.

The defence wasn’t as tight in the 24 minute, as Felix Odili Chidi, after receiving a long ball from Ngasepam Tondonba, sped past a couple of Gokulam men and beat goalkeeper Nikhil Barnard from close in. Then, two minutes before the interval, Ningthoujam Pritam Singh headed in a lovely cross from the left by Singam Subash Singh, to make it 2-0.

The last nail in Gokulam’s coffin was put in the dying seconds by substitute Ngangom Ronald Singh. That goal was set up smartly by Fabien Vorbe, who took a short corner and then made a perfect cross that met Ronald’s head.

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