Kolkata, Jan 30 (IANS) Aizawl FC beat Neroca FC 2-1 in the fifth round of the I-League at the Mohun Bagan Ground here on Saturday. With this win, the Mizoram team moved up the table with seven points and are now placed four points behind leaders Churchill Brothers, and have one game in hand.
MC Malsawmzuala scored the winner in the 56th minute after Judah Emmanuel Garcia had cancelled PC Laldinpuia’s first-half header.
Neroca, who came into the match after a 1-4 defeat against Gokulam Kerala, started the game with attacking intent, and within three minutes, had two chances to score. Khanngam Horam latched on to a forward pass from Jude Garcia in the second minute. However, his shot was blocked and sent for a corner. Later, a Horam header off a corner went out.
Aizawl settled down after the early scare and threatened the Neroca goal through a number of corners. They, however, only tested the goalkeeper in the 15th minute, when C Laldinpuia reached Malsawmtluanga’s corner but the defender’s header went straight to goalkeeper Bishorjit Singh.
Five minutes later, Bishorjit was forced to make another save to keep the scores equal as Ramhlunchhunga chested a cross down to his feet and took a shot. The Neroca custodian had to come off his line quickly and deny him the opener. In the 28th minute, Aizawl were again denied the opening goal as Alfred Jaryan’s header was cleared off the goal line.
Aizawl kept threatening and reaped rewards for their efforts in the 37th minute. An in-swinging 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 Alfred Jaryan but Bishorjit had no trouble in dealing with the shot as he ensured that his team went into halftime with just 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 that zoomed past Lalmuansanga and into the 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 Garcia’s long-range freekick struck the top of the crossbar. The third goal of the game came a minute later in the 56th minute and it was former I-League champions Aizawal who 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 the People’s Club.
Aizawl, then, aided by the number of substitutions and two late red cards to Akbar Khan and Kallon Varney Kiatamba, smartly slowed down the game, and killed off any attacking challenges that Neroca put up, with Gift Raikhan’s side ended the match with nine men on the pitch.