In the reverse leg of the Imphal Derby and in front of a crowd of 34,971 spectators at the floodlit Khuman Lampak Stadium, NEROCA FC cruised to a 5-0 win over TRAU FC, thanks to a hat-trick by Pritam Ningthoujam and two assists by Imran Khan. The win re-energized NEROCA’s I-league campaign, who now have 11 points from 11 games and are placed eighth on the table.
The first half of the match saw a lot of the play in the mid-field. The main moment of the half came in the 17th minute when NEROCA’s Ousmane Diawara received a beautifully lofted through-ball from the midfield and TRAU’s Sandeep took one for the team and handled the ball to stop Diawara from being through on goal. The handball cost the team as referee Pratik Mondal immediately took out the red card.
Being down to 10 men with more than 70 minutes to play, the game was looking like shifting completely towards NEROCA FC. Philip Tettey, after the sending off, took the free-kick from outside the box but it was straight at the TRAU keeper.
The remainder of the half saw NEROCA FC not being able to make the most of the chances that they had generated with two clear ones for Tettey. Trau’s defence wasn’t ready to pave an easy way for the home team and the half ended with both the teams level at 0-0.
The second half resumed with NEROCA looking like a completely different team. They soon put the foot on the pedal. The first goal came from none other than Philip Tettey in the 50th minute, who got a square ball at the edge of the TRAU box by Imran Khan. Tettey twisted his body and unleashed a thunderous strike which rocketed into the top right corner of the net.
Tettey’s goal opened the floodgates and what followed was a flurry of goals. It was now Jiteshwor with the through ball and Imran Khan, who was the provider in the last goal, became the scorer as he completed a clinical move to hand NEROCA a 2-0 lead with 58 minutes on the clock.
It was then Pritam for NEROCA who got in the act. It was Khan’s ball that bisected the defence and led to Singh being one-on-one with the TRAU keeper, as he dribbled past Mithun Samanta in the goal and completed a calm finish in the 60th minute.
For his second, Pritam in the 66th minute got the ball from Imran Khan, beat Tonmoy Ghosh for pace and his shot easily found the back of the net. With this goal, NEROCA was now 4-0 up.
Pritam, having scored his brace, was looking set for a hat-trick when Singam Subash cut inside and gave a perfect cross to the Pritam. It was an open goal but the forward fluffed his lines.
In the first minute of added time though, Tettey was again through on the goal and had a clear shot but his attempt was stopped by Samanta. The rebound fell to Pritam, who made no mistake this time and netted the ball with a powerful shot and thus completing his first hat-trick in the I-League and the Imphal derby.
The match finally ended with NEROCA FC winning the game 5-0 and Pritam walked away with the Hero of the Match award for his three goals.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine