NEROCA extended their unbeaten run in the ongoing I-League season to eight games on Tuesday evening after defeating Indian Arrows 2-0 at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Goa. Anwar Ali conceded an own-goal in the 18th minute and Felix Odili Chidi sealed the win for NEROCA with a 95th-minute goal.
The Indian Arrows went into the match with Suresh Singh Wangjam replacing Abhijit Sarkar in central midfield while Aniket Jadhav was dropped in favour of Edmund Lalrindika up-front.
Gift Raikhan, on the other hand, opted for an orthodox 4-4-2 shape with Singam Subash Singh and Felix Odili Chidi leading the attack while Loitongbam Bishorjit Singh replaced Lalit Thapa in between the sticks.
Though the Arrows created chances in the early minutes, it was NEROCA who took the lead in the game, thanks to an own goal in the 18th minute. A lack of communication at the back led to Anwar Ali heading Gopi Singh's attempt from the midfield into his own net past a wrong-footed Prabhsukhan Gill.
It could have been worse for Arrows as ten minutes later, Anwar's mispass fell to Glen Williams who, after spotting Gill off his line, attempted a shot from the half-line mark. However, the Arrows custodian was able to track back in time and avert danger.
Later in the half, Subhash's left-footed shot from the right-side of the Arrows box failed to hit the target while Rahim was only able to hit the side-netting from Edmund's cross from the right.
Jitendra Singh had to make a last-ditch clearance after Felix was sent through on goal by Israilov as the teams went into the break with the scoreline reading 1-0 in NEROCA's favour.
De Matos opted to bring on Aniket Jadhav and Abhijit Sarkar in place of Edmund and Jeakson at the start of the second half but the Arrows were often wasteful in the final third when they did manage to thread together a meaningful move.
Substitute Ninthoinganba Meetei, who had replaced Boris Singh, put in a good cross from the right but Aniket failed to get the shot away in time, allowing Williams to clear the danger.
In injury time, NEROCA FC doubled their lead as Felix Chidi found the back of the net after custodian Prabhsukhan and Jitendra failed to stop the Nigerian's marauding run into the box.
The win tonight takes NEROCA's tally to 15 points from nine matches while Indian Arrows have 10 from 11 matches.