NEROCA FC beat Kenkre FC 1-0 at the Cooperage Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday to pick up their first away win of the season.
Striker Jourdain Fletcher’s thumping strike early in the second half won all three points for the Orange Brigade, who had as many as 11 shots on target in the entire match.
Unsurprisingly, NEROCA dominated possession right from the first whistle with the Uzbek midfield duo of Sardor Jakhonov and Mirjalol Kasimov pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
The Orange Brigade had their first attempt on target on seven minutes when youngster Tangva Ragui dispatched a shot from outside the box, which was well-caught by goalkeeper Padam Chettri. That turned out to be the only contribution of the game from the Mumbai Kenkre custodian, as he had to be substituted for Tenzin Samdup in the 17th minute due to an unfortunate injury.
The hosts’ compact defence meant that NEROCA had to resort to long-range attempts to try and find the breakthrough. One such shot came at the half-hour mark as Kasimov, who scored a stunning curler against Mohammedan Sporting last week, tried his luck from 25 yards out but couldn’t get enough bend on the ball as it sailed wide of the post.
Seven minutes later, striker Jourdain Fletcher unleashed another long-range attempt with his right foot, which landed straight in the palms of substitute goalkeeper Samdup.
Mumbai Kenkre’s first half-chance of the match came four minutes before the break as some neat interplay between Pravitto Raju, Ranjeet Pandre and Azfar Noorani saw the hosts penetrate into the visitors’ box before an orange shirt intercepted the ball.
At the other end, Fletcher tried an audacious overhead attempt from 12 yards out at the stroke of half-time but couldn’t get the desired contact as the effort went harmlessly wide.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with NEROCA seeing much more of the ball. The Orange Brigade finally unlocked the stubborn Kenkre defence in the 57th minute. Jakhonov slipped a perfectly-weighted pass to Fletcher on the overlap and the Jamaican took a touch before drilling it into the roof of the net with his left foot.
NEROCA maintained the same attacking intensity after taking the lead with Thomyo Shimray coming on to inject even more pace into the wings. The visitors exerted complete control in midfield, leaving Mumbai Kenkre frustrated as they struggled to maintain possession.
The Mumbaikars, however, came close to finding an unlikely equaliser in the 80th minute as defender Kynsailang Khongsit made a darting run inside the box before releasing a strong shot, which was palmed away by goalkeeper Shubham Dhas.
In the end, NEROCA ran out comfortable winners in Mumbai with goalscorer Jourdain Fletcher being named Hero of the Match. The Jamaican has now scored the only goal in both of NEROCA’s wins this season (versus Sudeva Delhi and now Mumbai Kenkre).
The result saw Khogen Singh’s side rise to seventh place in the standings with six points. Mumbai Kenkre have slipped to tenth position with four points from as many games.
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