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I-League 2021-22 Phase 1, Round 1, Matchday 2: NEROCA, Real Kashmir, Mohammedan pick up wins

Sergio Mendi hat-trick leads Neroca to a 3-2 win over Sreenidi Deccan

I-League 2021-22 NEROCA FC vs Sreenidi Deccan FC
Source: i-League Media

A sensational treble on debut from Spanish striker Sergio Mendiguchia led Neroca FC to a 3 – 2 victory over Hero I-League newcomers Sreenidi Deccan at the Naihati Stadium here in Kolkata today. Girik Khosla and David Castenada Munoz got on the score sheet for Sreenidi Deccan, but the odd goal in five fell the way of Neroca FC to give the side from Manipur all three points in this Hero I-League clash.

After a scrappy start to proceedings, Neroca FC were the first side to make headway in the contest as they broke the deadlock in the 15th minute through new signing Sergio Mendi. As his fellow new Spanish recruit Juan Mera chipped in a free kick from a central position, Mendi came alive in the box as he brought down the ball with his chest and bundled it home from close range after Sreenidi goalkeeper Ubaid CK made the save at the first time of asking.

The Spanish duo of Sergio Mendi and Juan Mera combined again from a set piece to devastating effect in the 22nd minute. Standing over a free kick from a wider position this time, set piece specialist Juan Mera whipped in a fantastically shaped flat delivery into the box which was promptly nodded home by striker Sergio Mendi for his second goal of the game. The goal sparked wild celebrations among the Neroca outfit who rejoiced the striker’s brace on his Hero I-League debut.

Already two goals behind, Sreenidi Deccan needed a period off stabilising to avoid conceding further, as Neroca hunted for more goals. Sreenidi Deccan grew into the contest gradually and displayed more confidence on the ball, without having much to show for it on the scoreboard yet.

In the 41st minute, Girik Khosla was on hand to reduce the arrears for Sreenidi Deccan. Sriram channelled a brilliant pass into the box for Phalguni Singh, who raced on to the ball to produce a fantastic square pass for teammate Girik Khosla at the far post, who tapped the ball in with the goalkeeper taken out of the equation with the pass.

Sreenidi Deccan had a glorious chance right before the break to go into half time on level terms, but goalkeeper Shubham Dhas made a solid double save to keep Neroca’s lead intact. Lalromawia beat his defender Dhananjoy inside the box, but could not beat the goalkeeper with his effort as he should have arguably done better with the shot.

After the break, Sergio Mendi made it a dream debut in Indian football in the 49th minute, completing a perfect hat-trick; scoring with his right foot, head and left foot respectively. The Spanish striker doubled his side’s advantage again with his best goal of the lot, lobbing goalkeeper Ubaid with his footed first time effort. Ubaid rushed out from his goal line hoping to clear the ball, but he was beaten to it by Mendi, who caught the keeper stranded in no man’s land and lifted the ball over him from 20 yards out.

This enthralling encounter saw another twist in the tale in the 59th minute. Colombian striker David Castaneda Munoz announced his arrival into the Hero I-League this time with a perfectly executed header. As Lal Chungnunga sent in a hopeful looping ball into the box, Munoz rose highest and headed the ball back across goal, beating goalkeeper Shubham Dhas all ends up to revive the contest once again. The chance was particularly difficult as Munoz had to generate his own power on the header.

As the side from Andhra Pradesh grappled for an equaliser, Neroca let their experience come to the fore and denied a buoyant Sreenidi Deccan any further looks on goal. The Manipuri side halted the pace of the game when on the ball, and got plenty of bodies back in defence off it. Carefully executed match management eventually secured the win for Neroca FC, who will now take on defending champions Gokulam Kerala in their next match on 30 December 2021. Sreenidi Deccan will take on TRAU on 30thDecember 2021 as well.

Tiago Adan’s brace helps Real Kashmir to a 3-2 win over Aizawl FC

I-League 2021-22 Real Kashmir FC vs Aizawl FC
Source: I-League Media

Tiago Adan and Mason Robertson found themselves on target as Real Kashmir picked up a thrilling 3-2 win over Aizawl FC in their first game of the I-League 2021/22 season on Monday (December 27, 2021). While Tiago scored a brace in the match, Mason Robertson scored the crucial third goal for the Snow Leopards in the second half of the match. Aizawl FC did well to lead in possession stats, and remain in contest till the final whistle.

The encounter started with Real Kashmir sitting deep in their half and allowing Aizawl FC to keep the ball in the opening minutes. Ayush Chhetri got the first shot in the match away in the 7th minute of play after he received a pass from a corner. But his long-range hit went wide off the target.

Two minutes later, Real Kashmir received a corner of their own and Surchandra Singh sent the ball straight into the box, which was headed in to the back of the nets by striker Tiago Adan to give the Snow Leopards a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute.

Aizawl FC continued to enjoy the possession as the first half progressed but could create very little chances. With skipper Mason Robertson’s dangerous long throw-ins, and Surchandra Singh’s threatening run-ins from the left flank, Real Kashmir kept their threat going despite not having much of the ball with them.

Aizawl FC received their second corner in the match at the 29th minute, but the long-range shot from skipper R Malsawmtluanga went awry and the opportunity was missed. Nearly 10 minutes later, Aizawl FC received their third corner, and this time, Lalthakima Ralte latched on to the cross with a direct header and scored the equaliser in the 38th minute to make it 1-1.

Unfortunately for Aizawl FC, Real Kashmir’s Tiago restored the lead in the additional minutes of the first half. A corner from Surchandra reached Mason, but his shot was parried away by the goalkeeper Lalmuansanga to Tiago, who latched on the rebound and struck it in to make it 2-1 as the first half came to a close.

The second half started with Aizawl continuing to keep the possession, and searching for the equaliser. The first opportunity presented in the 49th minute for the club from Mizoram with a corner, but nothing threatening came on the back of it. Real Kashmir FC’s defender Prakash Sarkar did well to keep a check on Aizawl FC’s counter-attacks, and ensured there is no tough moment in store for goalkeeper Bilal Khan.

In the 66th minute, Mason Robertson got the third goal for Real Kashmir, as he managed to get a header on the ball on a cross by Thoi Singh from the left flank. The ball went into the nets and Real Kashmir went 3-1 up.
A moment of danger came for the Snow Leopards in the 74th minute as Aizawl FC received an indirect free kick inside the box with Bilal making the mistake of collecting the ball from a backpass. But Real Kashmir valiantly blocked the shot and Aizawl FC once again failed to grab the opportunity.

Just when it looked like Real Kashmir would run away with the win, a twist came in the 85th minute with Ramhlunchhunga scoring a goal with a shot from outside the box to reduce the deficit.

Tiago Adnan, who was the star performer for Real Kashmir, was stretchered off with three minutes remaining in the match. Five additional minutes were added to the game, and Real Kashmir comfortably defended the incessant attacks from Aizawl FC in the injury time and won the match 3-2.

Real Kashmir will next face off against Kenkre FC on 31st December 2021, while Aizawl FC will challenge Mohammedan Sporting Club on 30th December 2021.

Mohammedan SC survive late scare to win 2-1 over Sudeva Delhi FC

I-League 2021-22 Mohammedan SC vs Sudeva Delhi FC
Source: i-League Media

Mohammedan SC defeated Sudeva Delhi FC 2-1 in match six of the ongoing Hero I-League 2021-22 season to register first points on the table at the Naihati Stadium in Kolkata, West Bengal on Monday.

The Black Panthers maintained the ball possession in the opening play and started to create chances early on. Sudeva looked solid on the other side but the pressure was piling on.

Sudeva Delhi were broken early on as SK Faiaz opened the scoring for Mohammedan in the 13th minute, he got on the end of a wonderful cross from captain Nikola Stojanović to take the lead in the first 15 minutes. Goalscorer Faiaz received a yellow card in the 20th minute for simulation.

Mohammedan had the majority of the ball possession and Sudeva failed to create any clear-cut chance in the early exchange with Nikola and Milan Singh controlling the midfield for Mohammedan.

Marcus Joseph had a huge chance in the 26th minute to double the lead as he was through on goal but Akhbar Khan and Himanshu Rai combined to block his shot. Mohammedan kept creating chances as Faiaz delivered another great cross in the 32nd minute but Azharuddin Mallick missed the ball with an open goal in front of him.

Mohammedan Sporting Club were 1-0 up at halftime against Sudeva Delhi FC with a single SK Faiaz goal in a game where they could’ve had many more in the first half. It’s looked like a very comfortable match for the Kolkata-based club but Sudeva kept themselves in the game with some fantastic defensive work.

The second half began in the same manner, as Mohammedan pressing high while Sudeva Delhi being under the pump. Another goal came for the Black Panthers in the 53rd minute as midfielder Brandon Vanlalremidka lifted it forward for Joseph who played it to Mallick, Mallick passed it back to Joseph who took an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from the edge of the box to score a fantastic goal in the top-left corner for the Black Panthers, taking the lead to 2-0.

Sachin Jha made a stunning save in the 64th minute to deny Mallick the third goal for the Black Panthers as they kept looking to increase the lead.

Moving into the stoppage time, what looked like an easy clean sheet for Mohammedan was turned into an epic final few minutes as a sublime goal by Abhijit Sarkar out of nowhere from outside the box gave Sudeva Delhi hope. The score being 2-1 now, Sudeva Delhi tried stitching together a final move but were unable to score in the late drama as the referee blew the final whistle and the Black Panthers emerged as winners.

Marcus Joseph of Mohammedan received Hero of the match for his brilliant effort. Mohammedan dominated possession with a 64% share as well as the shots taken with 12 shots in the game compared to 36% and just 6 shots for Sudeva Delhi.

These match reports were originally published on I-League’s website.

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