Imphal: Neroca FC's title aspirations suffered a jolt as they were held to a goal-less draw by Aizawl FC in their crucial I-League match on Saturday.
In a closely contested and tactical match, both sides failed to score even though there were many clear chances.
Neroca had two clear chances, one at the stroke of half time, which Nedo Turkovic muffed, and another deep into the match that was wasted by Felix Chidi.
Aizawl striker Zikahi Leonce Dodoz had a golden chance to hand his side full three points in the second minute of the stoppage time, but he shot wide.
With the draw, Neroca remained on second spot in the league table with 28 points from 15 matches, one point less than table toppers Minerva Punjab. But the crucial point is that Minerva Punjab had played two matches less than Neroca.
Each side in the I-League will play 18 matches and Neroca thus have just three matches left.
Aizawl, who had lost to Neroca 1-2 in the first leg, remained on sixth spot with 17 points from 13 matches.
Gift Raikhan made three changes to his side that beat Gokulam Kerala 1-0. Dhananjoy Singh, Aryn Glen Williams and Pritam Singh were replaced by Govin Singh Moirangthem, Nedo Turkovic and Yumnam Gopi Singh respectively.
As for the visitors, Lalrosanga, Albert Zohmingmawia and Yugo Kobayashi were replaced by Lalthathanga Khawlhring, David Lalrinmuana and Shylo Mamsawmtluanga.
Felix Chidi threatened to score in the early stages of the game.
The Nigerian striker stole the ball from Masih Saighani before storming into the box and feeding Gopi, who failed to connect properly, allowing goalie Avilash Paul to come out and avert danger.
Afghanistan's Saighani played the match hours after landing here from Guwahati. He was handed the PAP (Protected Area Permit) on Friday by the Home Ministry, which allowed him to travel to Imphal and play the match.
Chidi threatened again when he made space for himself outside the box and between two defenders, but his left-footed piledriver flew inches wide of goal.
Aizawl player David Lalrinmuana's corner-kick past the half-hour mark caused havoc inside the Neroca box, but Leonce Dodoz failed to keep his shot on target.
The biggest opening of the half fell to Neroca at the stroke of breather. A beautiful cross from the right fell to an unmarked Nedo Turkovic inside the box, but the 28-year-old striker somehow missed a tap-in from close-range to keep the scoreline intact.
Both sides had chances at the hour-mark when Chidi's long-range effort scraped the post before flying wide and Ionescu's cross fell to David Lalrinmuana, whose attempt at goal had the Neroca goalkeeper tracking back to his line as the ball flew over the bar.
Lalrinmuana's shot at goal in the 73rd minute hit the Neroca net but it had taken an off-side touch as it flew through the crowded penalty box, forcing the referee to rule out a potential opener.
Both sides failed to finish off chances but had plenty of promising moments throughout.
Dodoz's right-footed shot in the second minute of added time was off target as the referee brought the engaging affair to a close.
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Updated Date: Feb 10, 2018 21:05:58 IST