Debutant NEROCA FC of Manipur on Tuesday held the mighty Mohun Bagan to a goalless draw in the 2017/18 Hero I-League at the Vivekananda Yuvabharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium).
Much to the delight of the Mariners’ faithful, Sony Norde and Ansumana Kromah were back after they saw their side miserably stutter against Shillong Lajong to a 1-1 draw after sustaining injuries against Churchill Brothers.
Eze Kingsley was suspended and Rana Gharami made his first Hero I-League start with the Green and Maroons. Dipendu Dowary was relegated to the bench while the unimpressive Naro Hari Shrestha was chucked out of the 18-man squad for Azharuddin Mallick. Meanwhile, Rana Gharami was adjudged the Hero of the Match for his impressive performance tonight.
Gift Raikhan introduced Akhlidin Israilov for Pritam Singh behind striker Felix Chidi. While Subash Singh and Gopi Singh flanked him, Fabien Vorbe and Saran Singh acted as the shield above the defence. Aryn Williams continued to play as a makeshift centre-half but Gouramangi Singh was back on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury that struck him in pre-season.
After his first minute shot that was saved by a diving Lalit Thapa, Sony Norde appeared to not be completely fit as Aser Dipanda took all of the subsequent set-pieces. A couple that he missed could have been capitalised well by the Haitian on another day.
The orange-clad side appeared at ease as they dictated proceeding from the centre of the park. Subash Singh and Gopi Singh inter-changed flanks regularly to flummox the Mohun Bagan fullbacks. However, Felix Chidi and Israilov could not convert from easy chances they got in the first half.
Ansumana Kromah put the ball into the net to send the home crowd cheering from Shilton D’Silva’s through ball but he was ruled offside by the linesman.
That story trickled into the second half when five minutes after the resumption, Norde’s goal was disallowed as he was trapped offside after Kromah released him from his dangerous sprint down the middle.
While Mohun Bagan’s attack appeared toothless with Aser Dipanda cutting a sorry figure, it was the midfield which included Raynier Fernandes and Shilton D’Silva that held on. Even Rana Gharami was impressive in the way he handled the backline in the absence of Kingsley, later going on to earn the ‘Hero’ of the match award.
The Manipuri outfit looked content with the draw but Sanjoy Sen will be sweating on his captain Sony Norde’s injury after he was stretchered out of the field, further aggravating his knock on the left knee.
The Green and Maroons have now dropped four points at home and it looks set to cost them dear in the title race as they remain on the third spot with nine points from 5 outings.
NEROCA FC will now travel to Shillong Lajong as they hold onto their fifth spot while the Kolkata giants have a long break before they welcome the Indian Arrows on 29th December 2017. (AIFF)