I-League: Fletcher's strike helps NEROCA FC pick first win of season, defeat Sudeva Delhi 1-0
Jourdain Fletcher's long-range shot proved to be the difference between the two teams as the hosts got their first win of the new campaign, while Sudeva suffered their second loss on the trot.
NEROCA FC picked up their first win of the I-League 2022-23 season on Friday, defeating Sudeva Delhi FC by a 1-0 margin at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, Manipur. Jourdain Fletcher's long-range shot proved to be the difference between the two teams as the hosts got their first win of the new campaign, while Sudeva suffered their second loss on the trot.
The first half of the match was a virtual see-saw of scoring chances, with both teams displaying attacking football and both goalkeepers being called into action on multiple occasions. Early in the fourth minute, Sardor Jakhonov's shot was deflected and fell awkwardly in the penalty area, with Sudeva goalkeeper Sachin Jha having to make an alert collection. Four minutes later, on the other end, Felix Chidi cut in from the left and fired a shot that was saved well by Soram Poirei.
The game suddenly sparked into life after the 26th minute, thanks to Sudeva's Seilenthang Lotjem, as he attempted an acrobatic volley from a cross but his shot went narrowly wide. Ten minutes later, he found himself in space outside the penalty area and attempted a chipped shot, which was collected by Poirei. In the 38th minute, Jakhonov curled in a fine cross from the left that was headed on target by Lunminlen Haokip, but was straight at the keeper. In the next minute, Sudeva had another shot saved as Misawa Tetsuaki's attempt at the near post was kept out, as the teams headed into the breather at level pegging.
The hosts created the first big chance of the second half through Fletcher, whose powerful effort from long range in the 51st minute was tipped around the post by Jha. However, he was left stranded in the 62nd minute as Fletcher collected a pass by Nonganba Singh and caressed the ball into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area to give NEROCA the lead. Two minutes later, Jakhonov tried his luck from distance as well, but it lacked sufficient power and was collected safely. The home side almost got their second through Haokip as his deflected shot grazed the top of the crossbar and went out for a corner kick.
With the visitors pushing men forward, NEROCA had a chance to extend their lead when Fletcher found Jakhonov on a breakaway attack in the 73rd minute. However, Jokhonov made a mess of the finish as he was unable to place it on target. Sudeva tried to push for the equaliser but were unable to make major inroads into the hosts' defence. A good chance came in the 80th minute as Akbar Khan had a free-kick from just outside the penalty area, but his shot hit the wall. Three minutes later, substitute Francis Nwankwo saw his curling effort get deflected and go inches past the post.
In the 88th minute, skipper Nishchal Chandan got his head to a corner kick but it was weak and was saved easily. The referee added six minutes of add-on time but the scoreline remained unchanged as NEROCA bagged all three points. (ANI)
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