I-League 2019-20: Neroca FC Beat Gokulam Kerala FC in Thrilling Game to Move Out of Relegation Zone
Imphal: Neroca FC pipped Gokulam Kerala FC 3-2 to come out of the relegation zone after 90 minutes of pulsating football at the Khuman Lampak Stadium on Friday, February 21.
Pritam Singh drew the first blood for Neroca FC as early as the second minute before Shibil Muhammed restored parity for Gokulam Kerala FC in the 25th minute. The visitors then took the lead through Nathaniel Garcia in the 40th minute.
After the breather, Neroca came from behind to equalise in the 48th minute through Philip Adjah. Neroca FC scored their third goal, nine minutes before the end of the regulation time, through Ronald Singh to register a much-needed victory.
The win means Neroca are now seventh in the points table with 15 points in 14 matches. Gokulam, on the other hand, stay fourth with 17 points from 12 matches.
Neroca FC pressed hard right from the start for an early lead and they were rewarded for it when a mistimed clearance by the visitors saw the ball land in front of Pritam Ningthoujam, who made no mistake in slotting the ball home.
Neroca, with this early lead, continued their pressing game but after the intial shock, Gokulam showed resilience to keep the scoreboard unchanged. Gokulam reorganised themselves and thereafter, started attacking the Manipuri team. In the 25th minute, a through ball from Marcus Joseph to Shibil Muhammed saw the latter restore parity.
Gokulam, with this lease of life, started their trademark passing game all over the pitch. Joseph, Garcia and Atuheire Kipson kept pressing hard and pegged behind Neroca. The Kerala outfit took the lead in the 40th minute when a short cross from Joseph saw Garcia execute a belter to score their second goal.
The first 45 minutes ended with the hosts trailing 1-2 to Gokulam Kerala FC.
The second half started with Neroca FC pushing hard for the equaliser, which left Gokulam a bit jittery. Their efforts soon paid dividends when Sebastian's throw to Irshad was anticipated rightly by Neroca's Philip Adjah. The astute striker crafted a beautiful goal in the 48th minute to cancel the visitors' lead.
Neroca, thereafter, shifted gears but lacked the finesse in front of the goal. Gokulam coach Fernando Varela introduced Henry Kisseka early in the second half. The change added pace and vigour but they could not see things off as desired.
Neroca boss Gift Raikhan threw the last dice with a couple of changes in the final 10 minutes as he introduced Chanso Horam and Siam Hangal, replacing Subash Singh and Busai Attila. This change yielded the result for the hosts immediately when Chanso's cross, which was sloppily defended by Jestin George, landed straight into the feet of Ronald Singh.
Ronald bulldozed the ball into the back of the net to earn the lead for Neroca in the 81st minute. The game, thereafter, saw Gokulam making a few attempts to score the equaliser but the home team saw off the danger calmly.
Gokulam will next face second-placed Punjab FC in Kozhikode on Saturday, February 29. Neroca, on the other hand, will travel to Srinagar to play Real Kashmir on March 4.