Vasco: Felix Chidi’s 22nd minute goal ensured Neroca FC remained in the race for their maiden I-League title following their 1-0 victory over Churchill Brothers at the Tilak Maidan here on Tuesday.
It came after successive defeats at home for the Manipuri club, which took them to 24 points from 13 games, just two behind leaders Minerva Punjab who have two matches at hand. But Churchill remained on the last position, their unbeaten run of four games marred by the home loss after consecutive wins. They remained on 10 points from the same no of matches.
Neroca who were eyeing a win after shock double home defeats made their intentions clear when Pritam Singh drew a double save from Churchill custodian James Kithan in the 8th minute.
Though most of their shots were off target, Neroca founda a way-out when Wayne Vaz in his pursuit of clearing away a long ball that Kithan had fumbled, was adjudged to have brought down Subash Singh in the box, giving away a rather cheap penalty.
Chidi then calmly put the the visitors ahead in the 22nd minute.
Churchill however didn’t give up and tried to claw back into the game with tons of long balls to Koffi Mechac and Dawda Cissey at places they would need a miracle to score. They were forced into a substitution when Uttam Rai had to be replaced by Israil Gurung, following an injury.
But for all their persistence it was a minute away from half-time when they had their first sight at goal. Some passes stitched together cracked open the tight Neroca defence, but Koffi shot wide from 12 yards-out.
The home side soon turned the screws on Neroca with repeated attempts but goalkeeper Bishorjit pulled out some close saves to keep his team ahead.
His save from three successive corners where Osagie Monday, Ceesay and Eldor Hussein all had headed towards goal was outstanding. Koffi then had a shot after chesting down a pass from the middle but Bishorjit dived in time to hold onto it.
For most of the second-half Neroca had more men defending their wall than attacking, as Churchill with their new found confidence attacked with aplomb.
But despite all attacks they failed to breach the visitors’ back-line giving Neroca their fist win after dobule defeats at home.