The Orange Army got a credible point away from home against their northeastern rivals.
In yet another Northeastern Derby in the I-League, Aizawl FC played out a goalless draw against NEROCA FC on their own turf. The home side looked comfortable in the first half and put the visitors on the back foot, forcing them to re-think their strategy. The interval must have boosted NEROCA’s belief and they looked much more aggressive in the final third after the break. However, both sides had to settle for a point each.
In this piece, Khel Now analyzes five talking points that grabbed the eye of on-lookers:
5. Ansumana Kromah was a big disappointment
The Liberian forward looked pretty casual and ordinary in front of goal, wasting all of his scoring chances and displaying poor ball control at times. Adding to his woes, NEROCA’s defence maintained a much higher line to keep Kromah in check. The plan worked to perfection as he was caught offside as many as five times throughout the game in his attempts to roll the ball forward.
After three games, Kromah has managed to score only a single goal, which came in Aizawl’s opening game loss to Lajong.
4. Mauro Boerchio was NEROCA’s saviour
Once again Mauro Boerchio saved NEROCA’s blushes in opposition territory and helped his side return home with a crucial point. The Italian goalkeeper saved at least three clear chances, denying Aizawl’s frontline in the process. Boerchio’s neat and disciplined clearances and catches and above all, his great reflexes could be very crucial for NEROCA’s defensive organization this season.
With this 0-0 draw, Mauro earned his first clean-sheet of the season.
3. Aizawl had some real bright sparks
Its still early days in the league, but Gift Raikhan and his backroom staff know the variety and depth of talent that their squad possesses.
Lalkhawpuimawia (Mapuia) was impressive over the green carpet today as NEROCA’s defence engaged men behind him to stop him from taking those free sprints. Likewise, Govin Singh was also very much alert to his defensive duties. Bektur Uulu is slowly but steadily getting used to life at the club. The 2016 champions, having undergone a huge transformation over the last two years, never looked jolted or out of place.
2. NEROCA held their nerves
The Manipuri side showed their ability to match their opposition for the first time this season. After a loss and a draw in their first two matches, that too at home, NEROCA’s first away game was a lesson well learnt.
Manuel Fraile’s side looked the more defensive of the two, as they began with grey clouds hovering over their fate. However, the Spaniard’s interval lecture was the much-needed tonic, as they looked a completely different side in the second half.
1. Malemnganba Meitei deserves much praise
The midfielder stole the limelight in the 0-0 stalemate. Malem’s quick feet and brilliant turns sent his markers the wrong way, as he created many scoring chances for NEROCA. The midfielder made his presence felt on both flanks in general, more on the right in particular, as NEROCA looked more aggressive in the second half. He even managed to win those odd tackles and free-kicks in favour of his team, as the visitors tried to get out of the shadow of the hosts.
Coach Fraile knows that the presence of an experienced campaigner in Meitei will be crucial in their quest for better performances in the season ahead.