I-League 2017-18: NEROCA FC finish runners up with a draw in Kolkata, Red and Golds finish fourth
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The Kolkata side only managed a draw at home on the last day of the league as Minerva Punjab went on to win the title...

A 1-1 draw between East Bengal and NEROCA FC meant that both Kolkata giants and the Manipuri-side fell short of winning the 2017-18 I-League title. 

Felix Chidi (42') scored in the first half but Dudu Omagbemi (73') equalised after the change of ends. NEROCA FC with 32 points ended as runners-up and East Bengal only managed to finish 4th, with 31 points in their kitty.

Khalid Jamil made as many as six changes from the side that drew 2-2 at Shillong Lajong. Ansumana Kromah was dropped to the bench and young Jobby Justin featured alongside Dudu.

Gift Raikhan handed out a debut to new signing Nick Ward while Lalit Thapa came in place of Bishorjit Singh in between the sticks.

East Bengal were on the front foot from the offset and Dudu's shot in the 22nd minute troubled NEROCA's defence. 

The Red and Golds squandered three good opportunities within as many minutes after the half-hour mark. Dudu and Mahmoud Al Amna's efforts were saved but Jobby Justin missed a sitter as he blasted the ball over from four yards.

The ineffective Gopi Yumnam was withdrawn by NEROCA and Pritam Singh's came into the game. Nick Ward started a counter-attack that had Ashok Singh and the Australian play a one-two on the right flank. 

Ward then released the ball for Felix Chidi who rounded Arnab Mondal and shot in at the near post past Ubaid CK.

Appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears of the referee as Dudu argued that Varney Kallon had handled the ball inside the box. Ansumana Kromah was brought on at last but he could not do much as the hosts found it tough to break the resolute NEROCA defence. 

However, the in-form veteran Dudu made sure that East Bengal would not sign off with a defeat as he headed in from Chullova's cross with a quarter of an hour left to play. In the final minute of regulation time, the referee made a blunder in not awarding a penalty to East Bengal as the ball had clearly touched Saran Singh's arm from Katsumi Yusa's corner.

NEROCA FC, who were only promoted this season finished runners-up, three points behind winners Minerva Punjab. For East Bengal, they went level with Mohun Bagan on points but given they had lost both Kolkata derbies, they finished fourth. The national league title has eluded them once again!

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