I-League: Norde goal sends Neroca to first loss in seven games
Sony Norde struck in the 78th minute but if Mohun Bagan have to stretch the argument about this I-League, they might need to be more convincing than Saturday’s 1-0 win against Neroca FC at Salt Lake stadium here.
After 13 matches and after winning two games on the trot at home for the first time this season, Mohun Bagan moved to 21 points, the same as Neroca who have played a game less. Neroca had beaten Mohun Bagan 2-1 at home.
“Sometimes, points become more important than how you play,” said Mohun Bagan goalie Shilton Paul, adjudged player of the match.
Norde made the most of a brain fade in the Neroca midfield which led to them tracking back slower than they should have been. So, after Darren Calderia found Norde, it was in the kind of space he would have wanted. With no one to put in a block, Norde ran down the middle and fired from the top of the area low to goalkeeper Lalit Thapa’s left.
One minute later, Norde was again through on goal and this time central defender Varney Kalderon had erred. His effort went way over. Sheikh Faiaz blasted into the side-netting as second-half injury-time loomed and the somewhat bright ending papered over a largely dull display.
Barring Paul that is. He kept out a Subash Singh shot in the 25th minute and one minute earlier when Neroca came close from a free-kick, again it was their goalie Mohun Bagan had to call on.
Malemnganba Kshetrimayum then made the most of the space that usually opens on the left side of Mohun Bagan’s defence between Norde and left-back Abhishek Ambekar but his grounder was off target. Six minutes later, in the 39th, from the same area, Kshetrimayum cut in and the ball pinged off Paul to Felix Chidi who hit the side-netting.
“I am feeling a lot more confident now,” said Paul having won his place in the team after coach Khalid Jamil replaced Sankarlal Chakraborty earlier this month. This was the second successive clean sheet for Paul who escaped a booking for landing an arm on Katsumi Yusa in the 52nd minute.
Perhaps emboldened by Mohun Bagan’s performance and the fact that they hadn’t lost the last six games, Neroca began with high line in the second half. It led to Mohun Bagan spraying balls behind the defence and Thapa, who had little to do after saving a Yuta Kinowaki shot in the eight minute, having a busier time. Adding some bite to Mohun Bagan’s attack was the introduction of Henry Kisseka and Sheikh Faiaz.
“They have so many good players; it is hard for us to play at their level. But I am angry and sad that we didn’t take a point from this game,” said Manuel Fraile, Neroca’s Spanish coach.
“We looked for an early goal and when that didn’t come, we had to absorb some pressure. Henry and Faiaz changed things in the second half,” said Jamil whose next match will be against East Bengal on January 27.