Papa Diawara’s 65th-minute header led RoundGlass Punjab FC to a narrow 1-0 win over Neroca FC at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in Kalyani, West Bengal on Monday (March 01, 2021), as the Curtis Fleming coached side garnered three points to move to the second spot in the I-League 2020-21 table. In a match largely dominated in terms of chances by their opponents Neroca FC, Diawara’s ability in front of goal proved pivotal in RoundGlass Punjab FC’s win.
Out of the top six race and looking to grab vital points in their effort to save themselves from relegation, Gift Raikhan’s Neroca FC started the game on an attacking note – out to prove a point. The Manipur-based club had a golden opportunity to take the lead as early as the seventh minute when Jiteshwor Singh pounced on a Kiran Limbu error, only to force the latter into making a good save from a tight angle.
The attacking flurry in the first half revealed a resurgent Neroca FC, one that was missing the entire season. Subash Singh Singham and Songpu Singsit caused havoc for the RoundGlass Punjab FC defence. However, plenty of chances were missed. In the 14th minute, Neroca FC were given another opportunity to take the lead when Judah Garcia was released onto the goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Garcia timed his shot straight into Kiran Limbu’s legs.
The first chance for RoundGlass Punjab FC came in the 19th minute when Papa Diawara’s header off Samad Ali’s cross was easily saved by the opposition goalkeeper. Such was the attacking ferocity of Neroca FC in the opening minutes.
But the best chance of the match fell to Aphaoba Singh for RoundGlass Punjab in the 31st minute. A long ball from the midfield caught the Neroca FC defence napping and Aphaoba ran straight onto goal. With only goalkeeper Bishrojit Singh to beat, the midfielder volleyed the shot straight down the keeper’s throat.
In the 38th minute, Akbar Khan’s shot from inside the box rattled the RoundGlass Punjab’s post as Neroca FC came inches close to taking the lead. However, two back-to-back saves by Bishrojit Singh in the dying embers of the first half kept the Punjab attack force out as the half-time scoreline read 0-0.
Bishrojit Singh’s brilliance to deny Papa Diawara and Hormipam from close range in the dying embers of the first half, changed the tempo of the match as RoundGlass Punjab FC came to play the second half spurred.
In the 53rd minute, Papa Diawara rattled the post with his acrobatic shot from inside the box. But Papa had to wait to open the goal-scoring tally. In the 65th minute, Joseba Beitia’s free-kick from the left flank found Papa Diawara inside the box and the Sengalaese headed the ball into the back of the net to hand RoundGlass Punjab FC the lead.
For all the chances that they created in the first half, Neroca FC were left reeling after conceding the goal. However, the team did not give up and pressed for the equaliser. RoundGlass Punjab FC’s defensive pairing, however, held their opponents at bay, while chances that came for Neroca FC’s strike-force were missed.
Neroca FC tried to stage a comeback in the dying embers of the second half but missed the finishing ability up front. At the full-time whistle, the scoreline read 1-0 as RoundGlass Punjab went second on the I-League 2020-21 table, four points adrift of league leaders Churchill Brothers.