Lalliansanga’s 46th-minute strike helped Aizawl FC to beat Neroca FC 1-0 at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday. With the victory, Yan Law’s side have now accumulated 18 points from 11 games, and become the first team from Group B to confirm their security from relegation at the end of the season. Gift Raikhan made three changes from their humbling defeat against the Indian Arrows, bringing in Jiteshwor Singh, Romton Singh and Olen Singh into the starting 11. Aizawl also started with three changes in personnel from their 3-0 victory against Chennai City as Yan Law started Lalchungnunga, Lalmawizuala and Ramhlunchhunga.
The first chance of the game fell to Aizawl in the 7th minute as Bishorjit Singh was forced to be quick off his line to clear the danger from a free-kick. On the other end, Neroca threatened the Aizawl goal in the 9th minute when Jude Garcia met Subash Singam’s cutback and forced a save from Lalmuansanga.
Subash Singam was at his brightest as his slick touch allowed him to enter the area and shoot. However, his strike was central and easily saved by Lalmuansanga in the 11th minute. Both Garcia brothers – Jude and Nathaniel – had an opportunity each to score from long-rangers in the opening 20 minutes of the game, but their efforts were off target.
Neroca kept threatening and as a result, won a free-kick just outside the penalty area in the 24th minute. Aizawl keeper Lalmuansanga had to be alert to save Nathaniel Garcia’s low, swerving effort.
Aizawl came close to scoring the opener in the 30th minute as Brandon reached a cross from the right but could turn his effort on target. In the 36th minute, Neroca’s Nathaniel Garcia rose highest to meet Judah Garcia’s cross but he couldn’t keep it on target! Despite creating more than enough chances to score, both sides headed into the break deadlocked at 0-0.
Aizawl took the lead in the 46th minute, just seconds after the restart when Lalliansanga met Brandon’s early cross and sent his well-placed header past a stranded Bishorjit Singh in the Neroca goal. With a goal in lead, Aizawl now looked comfortable in possession of the ball and kept knocking the Neroca defence in search of the second goal.
Ramhlunchhunga’s cross found Lalremsanga at the end of a well-built Aizawl move, but the striker’s header lacked both power and direction as it was easily saved by Bishorjit in the 55th minute. Aizawl were inches away from the second goal in the 62nd minute when Brandon burst into the area and struck his shot against the framework.
Neroca spurred a good opportunity to level the scores in the 74th minute as Varun Thokchom squared the ball to Judah Garcia, but his strike did not have the power to beat Lalmuansanga. Aizawl, on the other end, kept churning out chances and Lalremsanga failed to beat the Neroca keeper Bishorjit Singh with back-to-back chances in the 76th minute.
Songpu Singsit pounced on a loose punch from the Aizawl keeper but failed to hit the target from just inside the area in the 82nd minute. Neroca kept attacking, searching for just one good opportunity, but the former I-League champions went on to run the clock down and secure the victory in their first game of Phase-II.