AGENCIES IMPHAL, 4th Feb: Defender Varney Kallon Kiatamba's strike in the 43rd minute of the match helped NEROCA FC register a crucial win over Gokulam Kerala FC on Sunday in Imphal. The Manipuri side go top of the table after today's win.
NEROCA manager Gift Raikhan fielded an unchanged XI which defeated Churchill Brothers in their previous match but Bino George decided to bring three changes in Gokulam’s winning combination. Arjun Jayaraj, Henry Kisekka and Balwinder Singh came in place of Santu Singh, Kivi Zhimoni and Daniel Addo.
It was an end to end game right from the kickoff as both the sides looked hungry for goal. Bino George was forced to make his first substitution in the ninth minute of the game when Laldampuia left the field with an injury. Kivi Zhimoni made his way into the ground replacing the injured winger.
Aryn Williams came close to score twice but was denied. His first shot at goal from inside the box was brilliantly cleared by Mohamed Irshad. Second time it was completely the Australian’s fault as he failed to keep the ball on target from a one on one situation.
Gokulam’s best chance of the half was Al Ajmi’s stunning shot from the edge of the box which hit the crossbar and came back. The attacking midfielder received a square pass from Salman and unleashed a shot at the goal.
The deadlock finally broke in the 43rd minute thanks to Kiatamba Kallon’s strike. The move started with a Saran Singh corner which was headed inside the box by Gouramangi Singh. Bilal Khan’s butter fingers did the job easy for the defender who pushed the ball at the back of the net. Gift Raikhan’s decision to introduce Nedo Turkovic in the first half worked well for the Manipuri side as their flair in the attacking third increased.
Bino's men started the second half with an attacking mindset. They went for every ball in the opponent's half and tried to impose constant pressure on the NERCOA backline. Henry came close to score when his attempt at goal from outside the box was saved by Bishorjit Singh.
It was a vital win for Gift Raikhan's men as they reach the summit by finally dethroning Minerva Punjab. They now have 27 points from 14 games, a point ahead of Minerva but they have played two matches more.