February 8, 2020 11:12:39 pm
Pritam Singh struck a hat-trick to help Neroca FC outplay city rivals TRAU FC 5-0 in the reverse leg of the Imphal derby in the I-League on Saturday. Neroca thus took revenge of their first-leg defeat with a big win in front of 34,971 spectators at the floodlit Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal. The win re-energised Neroca’s I-League campaign, as they now have 11 points from as many matches to be placed eighth on the table.
The first half of the match saw a lot of the play in the mid-field. The key moment of the half came in the 17th minute when Neroca’s Ousmane Diawara received a beautifully lofted through-ball from the midfield and TRAU’s Sandeep Singh handled the ball to stop him from being through on goal. The handball cost the team as referee Pratik Mondal immediately took out the red card.
Down to 10 men with more than 70 minutes to play, the game was looking like tilting completely towards Neroca FC. Philip Tettey, after the sending off, took the free-kick from outside the box but it was straight at the TRAU keeper. The remainder of the half saw Neroca FC not being able to make the most of the chances they had generated with two clear ones for Tettey.
Trau’s defence was not ready to pave an easy way for the home team and the half ended with both the teams level at 0-0.
The second half resumed with Neroca looking like a completely different team. They soon put the foot on the pedal. The first goal came from none other than Philip Tettey in the 50th minute, who got a square ball at the edge of the TRAU box by Imran Khan.
Tettey twisted his body and unleashed a thunderous strike which rocketed into the top right corner of the net. Tettey’s goal opened the floodgates and what followed was a flurry of goals. It was now Jiteshwor Singh with the through ball and Imran Khan, who was the provider in the last goal, became the scorer as he completed a clinical move to hand Neroca a 2-0 lead with 58 minutes on the clock.
It was then Pritam Singh for Neroca who got into the act. It was Khan’s ball that bisected the defence and led to Pritam being one-on-one with the TRAU keeper. Pritam dribbled past Mithun Samanta in the goal and completed a calm finish in the 60th minute.
For his second in the 66th minute, Pritam got the ball from Imran Khan, beat Tonmoy Ghosh for pace and his shot easily found the back of the net. Pritam, having scored his brace, was looking set for a hat-trick when Singam Subash Singh cut inside and gave a perfect cross to him. It was an open goal but the forward fluffed his lines.
In the first minute of added time though, Tettey was again through on the goal and had a clear shot but his attempt was stopped by Samanta. The rebound fell to Pritam, who made no mistake this time and netted the ball with a powerful shot and thus completing his first hat-trick in the I-League and the Imphal derby.
Mason Robertson goal helps Real Kashmir beat Gokulam Kerala 1-0
Scottish striker Mason Robertson scored the match-winner as Real Kashmir FC walked away with a 1-0 win over Gokulam Kerala FC in their I-League match in Kozhikode on Saturday. Robertson headed home in the 49th minute to give his side all the three points.
Gokulam head coach Santiago Varela made just a solitary change to his previous line-up, bringing in Malemnganba Meitei in place of Muthu Irulandi, thus rendering the remainder of his 3-5-2 unchanged. Real Kashmir head coach David Robertson also made just one change, naming new winter acquisition Robin Singh upfront and Chesterpaul Lyngdoh making way for him.
The first half was mostly played out in midfield, with either side failing to create any real chances. Gokulam used long balls and crosses but keeper Phurba Lachenpa’s alert presence thwarted danger on every occasion.
Marcus Joseph tried his luck from distance on multiple occasions, coming close at the 19th and 44th-minute marks but was denied by a fine couple of saves from Lachenpa.
The second half might have headed down that route had Real Kashmir not turned the tables. In the 49th minute, a fine cross from Loveday Okechukwu found Robertson, who shrugged off his marker Andre Etienne and made the perfect connection with his head, finding the back of the net.
The goal, however, prompted an immediate response from the hosts and the game burst to life.
In the 52nd minute, a speculative cross from Naocha Singh bounced off the top of the crossbar, with Lachenpa getting fingertips on the dipped delivery. The resultant corner saw Lalromawia’s thunderbolt of a shot rattled the woodwork.
The Malabarians got another corner, which they made good use of and found Henry Kisekka, who hit the target but Lachenpa was in no mood to let anything past him. The ricochet fell to Haroon Amiri, who went for technique over power but his curler went agonisingly over the crossbar.
David Robertson’s plan was working to perfection and his side tried going for the insurance goal on the counter. Bazie Armand’s cross-field delivery almost put Mason Robertson through on goal and the Scotsman would have had acres to run had it not been for Ubaid CK’s ‘sweeper-keeper’ intervention, as he came running towards the halfway line.
Gokulam tried to level the score until the final whistle, with Joseph being denied time and again by Lachenpa who played out of his skin — deservingly winning the Hero of the Match as Real Kashmir completed third win on the trot.
The Srinagar-based outfit jumped to third on the table with 15 points and have now thrown their hat into the title race, while Gokulam dropped to fifth place.
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