AGENCIES KOZHIKODE, 9th Dec: Two first-half goals from Felix Chidi (23rd minute), Pritam Singh (43') and a sublime header from Ronald Singh (90'+4') in injury time summed up a pristine 3-0 win for Neroca FC to open their account in the ongoing I-League 2017-18, overcoming Gokulam Kerala FC who are now left winless in their first three fixtures in their debut season.
With the win, Neroca FC propel to the fifth position in the I-league table with three points from two matches whereas the Kerala-based side goes down to the eighth spot with a solitary point from three games.
Bino Geroge's boys almost snatched an early lead within seconds of kick-off but the assistant referee flagged it offside to provide some respite to Gift Raikhan and his boys.
Gokulam Kerala FC striker Mbele poked his first goal of the I-League 2017-18 in the 17th second of the match but their joy was cut short by the official.
On a counter attack, Neroca FC found the leak in the Gokulam Kerala FC defence but Mohamed Salah charged at the last moment to keep the scoreline unchanged.
After the early drama in either half of the pitch, the pace of the game mellowed down a bit which was brilliantly utilised by the visitors when they took the lead in the 23rd minute.
Tondomba put in a long ball directed to the Nigerian striker who did no mistake going past Pravat Lakra to tap it home eventually to silent the 8000-odd home crowd. Meanwhile, it was the Nigerian striker's second goal in as many games.
Following the goal, the visitors continued to push the hosts to double the lead but the yellow outfit somehow contained the Manipuri attacks until the 43rd minute when Pritam Singh headed their second goal to Gokulam Kerala FC's dismay.
Subash Singh outran the defender down the left flank and unleashed a juicy cross inside the six-yard box which was brilliantly converted by Pritam Singh to leave Mohamed Salah and Provat Lakra completely perplexed.
Neroca FC went to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead over the hosts at the half-time.
Bino George rang a couple of changes after the changeover in their pursuit of the elusive goal when Shinu S and Meitie were introduced at the expense of Mohamed Salah and Gulom Urunov respectively.
As Shinu S was deployed at the heart of the defence, Provat Lakra pushed himself to the left wing to add more vigour to the attacking third but Neroca FC handled that without much fuss.
Irshad put in a low cross for Mbele in the 63rd minute but Aussie defender Aryn Williams went for a last-minute tackle to maintain the clean sheet.
Bino Geroge introduced the fresh pair of legs in terms of Usman Ashik sixteen minutes to the final whistle who threatened the visitors time and again but they couldn't breach the Neroca FC defence until the final whistle.
Super-sub Ronald Singh who replaced Subash Singh five minutes to the final whistle headed the final nail in Gokulam Kerala FC coffin at the added time to add more woes to Nikhil Barnard who was adjudged the Hero of the Match against Chennai City FC in their last home fixture.
Neroca FC will go back to their backyard to host Chennai City FC in the first-ever I-League match played at the Manipuri soil on December 15 while Gokulam Kerala FC will face Indian Arrows on December 22.