Shubho Paul was on target as Sudeva Delhi FC managed to hold NEROCA FC to a 1-1 draw in the I-League match at the Naihati Stadium on Thursday. While NEROCA opened the scoring with Sergio Mendigutxia (45+2′) converting a penalty at the stroke of halftime, Paul converted a penalty of his own just a few minutes later to bring his team to a level pegging. Both the teams struggled with their finishing on open play and the cagey affair ended in a tie.
The high-intensity clash started with a big blow to NEROCA as playmaker Juan Mera suffered an injury in the 2nd minute and was taken off immediately, with Thokchom James Singh replacing him. In the 10th minute, Mohamad Kdouh passed the ball to Mendigutxia, who took a shot from outside the box. But Sudeva Delhi FC goalkeeper Sachin Jha made an acrobatic save to deny the Spaniard.
In the 17th minute, Sukhandeep Singh made a dangerous cross inside the box, but the NEROCA defence cleared the ball quickly. In the next minute Khaiminthang made a beautiful cross inside the box for Mendigutxia, but he was unable to control the ball and the opportunity to get on the board was missed. In the 20th minute, Mendigutxia attempted yet another shot from nearly 25 yards out, but Jha jumped to his right and made yet another save.
With a minute left on the clock in the first half, Nishal Chandan tripped a NEROCA player while defending a corner, and the referee signalled for a penalty straight away. Mendigutxia converted from the spot, giving his team a 1-0 lead just at the stroke of half-time.
Two minutes later, Lallenang Sitlhou tripped Akbar Khan inside the box and the referee once again signalled for a penalty, this time on the other end. Shubho Paul converted from the spot calmly to bring his team back on level pegging.
Sudeva started the second half with an attacking mindset, as they dominated the ball and remained deep inside NEROCA’s half. In the 49th minute, the ball landed for Rakesh Pradhan after NEROCA goalkeeper Shubham Dhas pushed it away while defending a corner. But Pradhan’s shot went above the goalpost.
Sweden Fernandes made a dangerous move inside the box a few minutes later. But Sudeva’s defensive troops were prepared for the danger and goalkeeper Sachin grabbed the ball with ease. In the 60th minute, William crossed the ball in a dangerous position, but Ben Nash was alert to the danger and he dived to make the save.
A few minutes later, Khaiminthang broke past Delhi midfield to enter the danger area, but he was unable to find any support inside the box and could not make the most of the opportunity. With the game shackled in midfield, both the teams brought on fresh legs to create more chances. In the 77th minute, Khaiminthang made a gorgeous pass to substitute player Johnson Singh, who dribbled past a Sudeva defender to enter the box. But his weak right-footed shot was easily saved by Jha.
NEROCA held most of the possession in the final 10 minutes, but continued to struggle in the attacking third. In the 86th minute, Jonychand took a free kick and sent a good ball into the box. But Khaiminthang missed the header on the ball and Sudeva cleared away the danger once again.
At the 90th minute mark, Akbar Khan went down on the ground after a challenge from Jonychand and received medical attention. As the match resumed, NEROCA searched for some inspiration to get the winner, but could not create any dangerous move and the match ended in a stalemate.