NEROCA FC suffered their sixth defeat of the season, losing 0-1 against Sreenidi Deccan FC in the I-League 2022-23 encounter at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Wednesday.
An early second-half goal by the substitute Ramhlunchhunga proved to be decisive as Sreenidi Deccan collected three points to go to the top of the table with 19 points from nine matches.
Despite the defeat, NEROCA too had their share of chances in the match. Early in the game, Jourdaine Fletcher took a powerful long-ranger, which was collected comfortably by the Sreenidi custodian Ubaid CK. However, the first real chance of the game came to the visitors when Faysal Shayesteh’s deflected shot reached captain David Castaneda Munoz, whose effort ended up hitting the crossbar.
As the game progressed, it became a midfield battle with Mirjalol Kosimov pulling the strings for the hosts, while at the other end Shayesteh and Konsam Phalguni Singh played the pivotal role for Sreenidi. In the 17th minute, NEROCA’s Lunminlen Haokip found some space near the rival penalty area but his effort lacked power as it was easily collected by goalkeeper Ubaid.
Seven minutes later, Phalguni Singh made a run from the midfield, beating his marker and feeding Rosenberg Gabriel, who made a run into the penalty area before taking his shot that was saved by the NEROCA custodian Shubham Dhas.
In the final minutes of the first half, the visitors went close to scoring again. Shayesteh played a delightful pass for Ashraf Ali Mondal, who made a run on the left wing before firing his shot, which was again saved by a well-positioned Dhas as the scores remained level at half-time.
A minute into the second half, the visitors broke the deadlock. In a well-worked move, Gabriel whipped a pinpoint cross from the right to find substitute Ramhlunchhunga, who made no mistake to head the Deccan Warriors into the lead.
Fletcher, who remained anonymous for the majority of the game came into action at the hour mark. Inside the penalty area, the Jamaican sent a left-footed cross for Surchandra Singh to tap into an open goal. However, before the home fans could celebrate, the flag was raised for offside.
In their bid to score the equaliser, NEROCA launched a series of attacks in the final minutes. The hosts managed to play around the opponents’ box but couldn’t create any threatening chances. They went the closest to scoring in the 80th minute when Kosimov tried a long-ranger, but it went straight to Ubaid under the Sreenidi goal.
Following this win, Sreenidi Deccan is now at the top of the table, followed by Real Kashmir FC, who have 16 points after playing one match less than the current table toppers. NEROCA FC stay at tenth on the table with seven points from nine matches. (ANI)