Rajasthan United began their home campaign on a positive note with a 1-0 win against NEROCA FC in a fifth-round fixture of the A first-half header by Kyrgyz defender Aidar Mambetaliev was enough for the hosts to collect three points as they remained unbeaten for the third straight game.
The game kicked off on an aggressive note as Rajasthan used their wings to score. However, the first quarter of the game went by without any clear-cut chance for either side.
Rajasthan were put under pressure in the 20th minute when their custodian Mohammad Rafique Ali Sardar came off his line to deal with a long through ball sent by NEROCA’s Sardor Jakhonov. Ali Sardar tried to lob the ball to his teammate Melroy Melwin Assisi but misplaced his pass and it fell to NEROCA’s Lunminlen Haokip, who chipped the ball towards the goal but it was off target.
Near the half-hour mark, Jakhonov made a darting run into the box as he was fed by Tangva Ragui. The Uzbek then shifted to his right, bringing the ball on his favoured right foot but he shot straight at at Ali Sardar.
Rajasthan captain Martin Chaves, usually accurate with his deliveries from setpieces, didn’t find his range and looked casual on the day.
But the Uruguayan came to life in the 38th minute as his flawless cross from the corner was met by a well-timed header by Aidar Mambetaliev to find the target.
The first half ended with Rajasthan getting multiple chances to double their lead but the NEROCA defence ensured they went into halftime with a single-goal deficit.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first half as both teams displayed a level of caution as they ventured forward.
In the 63rd minute, Rajasthan’s Nuha Marong was fouled by NEROCA captain David Simbo on the right wing.
From the resultant freekick, Chaves whipped another cross for the goalscorer Mambetaliev, who made a run on the near post but failed to double his tally as his header went over the bar.
Rajasthan defender Hardik Bhatt was alert at the back, intercepting whatever NEROCA tried. Rajasthan playmaker Joseba Beitia controlled the midfield while NEROCA forwards Haokip and Jourdaine Fletcher were full of running, making multiple runs behind the opponents’ defence but lacked quality service from his teammates.
Fletcher took a long range shot in the 76th minute but it was easily collected by Ali Sardar. Fletcher was again in the thick of things as he took a corner kick in the added time but it was punched away by the goalkeeper.
The visitors tried to launch a comeback in the final minutes of the game but fell short.
Rajasthan now have 10 points with three wins and a draw in their five games played while NEROCA sit seventh on the points table with six points in as many games. (ANI)