With the victory, Curtis Fleming’s side also moved up to second place on the I-League table.
A magnificent header from Senegalese forward Papa Babacar Diawara in the 65th minute led RoundGlass Punjab Football Club (RGPFC) to a crucial 1-0 win over NEROCA FC at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in West Bengal on Monday. Curtis Fleming’s men garnered three important points to move to the second position on the I-League points table. Diawara’s incredible presence in front of the goal proved to be the deciding factor in RoundGlass Punjab FC’s victory.
Gift Raikhan’s NEROCA started the game on an attacking note. The Manipuri club got some golden opportunities to take the lead, but RoundGlass Punjab custodian Kiran Limbu’s heroics denied them from doing so. The attacking flurry in the first half revealed a resurgent NEROCA — one that was missing the entire season. Subash Singh Singham and Songpu Singsit caused havoc for the RGPFC defence. However, plenty of chances were missed. In the 14th minute, they got another opportunity to take the lead when Judah Garcia was released onto the goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Garcia timed his shot straight into Kiran Limbu’s legs.
RoundGlass Punjab FC’s first real opportunity came in the 19th minute when Diawara’s header off Samad Ali Mallick’s cross was easily saved by the NEROCA goalkeeper.
The best opportunity of the match came to RGPFC’s Aphaoba Singh in the 31st minute. A long ball from the midfield by Souvik Das caught the NEROCA defence napping and Aphaoba ran straight towards goal. With only goalkeeper Bishrojit Singh to beat, the young midfielder from RoundGlass Punjab Academy volleyed the shot straight down the keeper’s throat.
Bishrojit Singh’s brilliance to deny Diawara and Hormipam from close range in the dying embers of the first half changed the tempo of the match as RGPFC came back incensed to play the second half.
The Club seemed to be a determined unit in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Diawara rattled the post with his acrobatic shot from inside the box. But he had to wait to open the goal-scoring tally.
In the 65th minute, Joseba Beitia’s magnificent free kick from the left flank found Diawara inside the box and he headed the ball into the back of the net in a sublime fashion to hand RoundGlass Punjab FC the lead.
NEROCA were left reeling after conceding the goal. However, the team did not give up and pressed for an equaliser. RoundGlass Punjab FC’s defensive pairing of Bikash Yumnam and Hormipam Ruivah, however, held the opponents at bay.
At the full-time whistle, the score-line read 1-0 as RoundGlass Punjab secured the second spot on the I-League points table in phase 1, just four points shy of league leaders Churchill Brothers.