Both the teams are yet to win a game this season.
In what was a thrilling start to the second gameweek in the I-League, NEROCA FC managed to cling on to a 1-1 stalemate against visitors Gokulam Kerala on Wednesday. Despite suffering a 2-0 hammering at the hands of East Bengal in the last game, the home fans turned up in huge numbers at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal to witness the lunchtime kick-off on a cold and cloudy day. Gokulam showed much promise in the game, while NEROCA looked smart only in bits and pieces.
Khel Now analyzes five talking points from the aforesaid game:
5. Mauro Boerchio was NEROCA’s saviour
The Italian shot-stopper was the last line of defence for NEROCA, in what looked like some fragile organization at the back for Manuel Fraile’s men. The tall and sturdy goalkeeper was called into action many times, as Gokulam pressed the home side frequently.
His smart decision-making and quick reflexes saved the Orange Brigade’s blushes late in the second half, after Gokulam’s Manipuri forward Pritam Singh goofed up an easy chance to net a possible winner.
4. Bino George’s substitutions worked to perfection
After steering his team to a 1-1 draw last gameweek against Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, Bino George’s tactical substitutions received a lot of praise from the fans and football fraternity. The Gokulam coach proved his mettle once again as his tactics paid dividends instantly.
As early as the 35th minute of the game, George sensed an opportunity to tighten the screws against a NEROCA side that looked low on confidence. His decision to take off experienced midfielder Mohammad Rashid for a forward in Baorindao Bodo so early might have raised a lot of questions, but to every Gokulam fan’s delight, the young Assam lad broke the deadlock just before the interval.
3. NEROCA lacked self-belief and discipline
It seems the Manipuri side that finished second in the I-League table last season have lost a bit of calm and are looking to do things in a haphazard manner. There was a lack of cohesion in midfield, players were stolen of possession and there were physical challenges borne out of frustration.
The team management and the backroom staff need to have a serious talk regarding the ball control and discipline. Undoubtedly, Fraile has a very good mix of youth and experience in his side, but he needs to put them to use.
2. Gokulam Kerala’s fearless attitude will be vital in away games
There’s no denying the fact that the team from the Malabar coast looked more comfortable in northEastern territory. Local lad Pritam Singh’s terrific runs on the right flank evading his markers engrossed Khuman Lampak to applaud his skills despite playing for the opposition.
Chennaiyin FC loanee Boaringdao Bodo too displayed his prowess in front of goal. Shibinraj, the man under the woodwork didn’t have much to worry about and looked calm and composed with his glovework. George’s side didn’t look bothered about pressing higher as his team piled the pressure on NEROCA.
1. Ronald Singh will be an important player for NEROCA this season
Missing the services of Katsumi Yusa on the field due to an injury, NEROCA went with a 21-year-old talent in Saikhom Ronald Singh. The Tata Football Academy graduate displayed his flair and elegance in midfield creating chances and gave a tough time to the Gokulam wing-backs and midfield. He was instrumental in building up the attacking tempo and sprinted through those narrow corridors with endless energy.