Aizawl, Dec 8 (IANS): Aizawl FC defeated NEROCA FC 1-0 in a sixth-round match of the I-League 2022-23 at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, here on Thursday.
A second-half header from Japanese defender Akito Saito proved enough for the hosts, who saw more of the exchanges, to take full points home.
The game began on a fast note with Aizawl having an edge over NEROCA. The hosts enjoyed the majority of the possession in the early minutes of the game but didn't find any goalscoring opportunity. R Lalthanmawia went closest in the sixth minute when the winger cut inside from the left, beating his marker in the process to shoot, but his effort didn't produce the required result.
Midway through the first half, the game burst into life as Aizawl created three back-to-back chances. In the 24th minute, Lalthanmawia on the left wing dribbled past his marker and put a cross inside the six-yard area for R Ramdinthara, who failed to control the ball.
A minute later, Lalchhanhima Sailo passed the ball to K Lalrinfela on top of the penalty area and rolled the ball back into Sailo's way. However, the midfielder's shot was saved by NEROCA custodian Soram Poirei Anganba.
At the half-hour mark, Ramdinthara played Sailo on the right wing, who crossed it for Henry Kisekka at the near post. But the Ugandan put his header wide. On the other hand, two minutes later, Jourdaine Fletcher took a free kick following a foul on Aimol Reamsochung. The Jamaican's powerful strike did rattle the crossbar, but wasn't enough to fetch him a goal.
With just a minute left in the first half, Kisekka put the ball into the net but before he could celebrate, the referee called for a foul as the Ugandan had pushed NEROCA's centre-back Thokchom James Singh in the process.
After the restart, the hosts again took charge of the proceedings, this time building attacks from the left. fullback Zodingliana Ralte twice created good chances for Ramdinthara inside the box. The forward put his header off target on the first occasion, while failing to make the necessary connection on the next one.
Henry Kisekka helped his team create multiple chances with Ramdinthara and Lalrinfela making constant inroads behind the striker.
At the hour mark, Kisekka shielded the ball before passing it for substitute Matias Veron inside the 18-yard box. The Argentine pulled the trigger but his shot was blocked for a corner. The resultant set-piece taken by Lalthanmawia was thumped into the net by Aizawl's Japanese defender Akito Saito.
NEROCA launched a series of attacks in the final minutes of the game with Lunminlen Haokip going close in the 89th minute. Aizawl's Sailo fouled the substitute Tangva Ragui and NEROCA substitute Nonganba Singh Akoijam's freekick reached Haokip near the rival goal but the striker couldn't keep his shot on target as the People's Club walked off with three points.
After this match, Aizawl FC moved to the sixth place in the points table with eight points from six games. NEROCA are currently eighth in the table with six points from as many matches.