IMPHAL: Mohammedan Sporting Club bowed out of the 2016/17 2nd Division League as they played out a 1-1 draw against Neroca FC in the Preliminary Round Group-B encounter on Saturday.
Neroca FC needed only a point to qualify for the final round while Mohammedan SC would have gone through at Neroca FC’s expense if they had won all points. But Neroca FC did not disappoint the home crowd present at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal.
The hosts took the lead in the 29th minute through Ejiogu Chinedu Emmanuel before substitute Zikahi Leonce Dodoz restored the parity for the visitors late in the 84th minute.
The draw helped Neroca FC to top the Group B with 13 points while Mohammedan SC finish on third spot with 10 points behind Southern Samity who beat Hindustan FC 3-2 to finish second on 12 points. Neroca FC and Southern Samity made into the final round.
Going into the game Mohammedan SC coach Ranjan Chaudhury made two changes to the side that thrash Hindustan FC 6-1 last week as Rana Gharami came at the expense of Sonam Chong Sherpa while Sankar Roy replaced Sayan Roy under the bar.
Both teams started nervously trying to gauge each other’s strengths in the initial quarter of the game. But as the game progressed the hosts gradually gained control over the proceedings.
Neroca FC were rewarded for their persistent efforts when Emmanuel found back of the net to put his side ahead. Subash Singh got the ball down on the right side, cut past a couple of defenders and found space inside the box. Though his attempt on goal was palmed away by Mohammedan SC goalkeeper Sankar Roy but Emmanuel made no mistake in slotting the rebound home.
The goal stunned Mohammedan SC momentarily but the visitors did not lose hope and began attacking with intensity through Manvir Singh, Alexandre Tabillon and Vanlalbiaa Chhangte, but rivals Neroca FC managed to hold on defending deep as the first half ended 1-0.
Needing a goal, Mohammedan SC began the second half with added enthusiasm as they attacked by pushing high up, but Neroca FC had their keeper Lalit Thapa to thank after he denied Vanalalbiaa and Manvir on multiple occasions.
Mohammedan SC forward line moved with much cohesion after Dodoz entered the field in the 52nd minute replacing Lancine Toure. Neroca FC, on the other hand, looked to keep compact and hit their rivals on the counter attack.
However, the constant attacks from Mohammedan SC bore fruit in the 84th minute, when Dodoz curled in a free-kick home from outside of the box. The free-kick was awarded to the visitors after Subash brought down Vanlalbiaa.
Thereafter, Mohammedan SC battled hard towards the end looking for a winner, but Neroca FC managed to hold on defending deep as the game ended 1-1.