Aizawl: NEROCA FC rode on Nedo Turkovic's late strike as they rallied from a goal down to beat defending champions Aizawl FC 2-1 in a thrilling I-League match on Saturday.
In a game with an abundance of chances for both sides, Turkovic headed home the match-winner in the 85th minute after his NEROCA team-mate Felix Chidi (65th) had cancelled out Aizwal defender Kareem Omolaja's 39th minute goal.
With Saturday's win at the packed Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, I-League debutants leapfrogged East Bengal in the league table to occupy the second spot with 21 points from 10 matches.
The home side dominated the first half with a flurry of chances but they were to be blamed themselves for not scoring more goals. Neroca came back strongly in the second session to notch up two goals and continue their nine-match unbeaten streak.
Aizawl's head coach Paulo Menezes made two changes in the playing XI as Lalramhmunmawia and Yugo Kobayashi started in place of suspended Afghan defender Masih Saighani and William Lalnunfela.
The Imphal-based NEROCA made no changes from their win against Indian Arrows. Shambu Mistry was in goal and Gourmangi Singh led the defence alongside Varney Kallon, Ngaseoam Tondonba and Ashok Singh.
Aizawl got their first shot at goal in the first minute of the match itself but Andrei's volley was thwarted away by Shambu. The home side came close to scoring again but Andrei's dipping free-kick struck the woodwork.
NEROCA fans sang their hearts out in the corner of the stadium but were silenced by Kareem's goal.
The lanky defender leapt above the Neroca players as he headed his first goal of the season at home.
Gift Raikhan's boys almost drew the equaliser just before the half time. Felix Chidi did all the hard work as he skipped past Aizawl defenders, then slid a delightful pass to Subash Singh but the Manipuri forward could not find the back of the neck.
The half time break proved vital for the away side as they started to dominate the game in the second half. But it was the home side who had the first goal scoring chance after the lemon break.
Dodoz's cross was met by Andrei but the Romanian's shot again struck the woodwork.
Felix Chidi scored the equaliser in the 65th minute after a wonderful team effort broke the Aizawl defence.
As everyone in the Aizawl FC dugout started to believe to leave the stadium with one point at least, Turkovic stunned them five minutes from the regulation time when he headed home a David Biakzara's cross from the left wing.
Aizawl went all out but Neroca's resolute defence and the heroic goalkeeping from Shambu Mistry denied the defending champions a point in their fortress.
Aizawl will host Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan in their next game on January 25 while Neroca play Shillong Lajong on January 24 in Imphal.
Updated Date: Jan 20, 2018 22:07 PM