NEROCA FC were held to a 1-1 draw against Tiddim Road Union Athletic (TRAU) in their first match of the 2020/21 I-League season, the Imphal derby at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium today, January 15.
Varun Thokchom’s 10th-minute strike was cancelled out by Joseph Olaleye’s 15th-minute header as both teams shared the spoils of battle in the Imphal derby.
Derbies have a special feeling about them, the passion and desire to win add more pinch of competitiveness in the field. The Imphal derby which witnessed an end to end action was no different. As early as the 6th minute, TRAU created the first goal-scoring chance of the match when Komron Tusirov ran clear of his marking defender onto goal. The Tajik forced the opposition custodian to make a good save from a tight angle.
Four minutes later, with their first shot on target NEROCA took the lead. A defensive lapse left a huge gap between the two central defenders and Varun Thokchom ran into the vacant space to receive a cross from the flank. The nimble-footed forward made no mistake and slotted past the TRAU custodian to give NEROCA the upper hand in the derby.
The lead, however, was short-lived. In the 15th minute, Joseph Olaleye thunderous header off a Komron Tusirov corner kick grabbed an equalizer for TRAU and levelled the derby once again.
With end to end action ensuing for much of the first half, NEROCA were provided opportunities to go ahead. In the 30th minute, Songpu Singsit’s long shot from outside the box flew narrowly past the goal and seven minutes later Khanngam Horam missed a sitter after he skewed his shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
TRAU’s forward seemed to run out of steam as they were thwarted with ease by the NEROCA defence and both teams went into the tunnel on level pegging as the scoreline read 1-1.
TRAU started much more attacking and positive in the second half. In the 58th minute, goalscorer Joseph Olaleye had a great opportunity to hand TRAU the lead but his effort from close range was saved heroically by the NEROCA custodian.
The tempo in the second half after that chance for Olaleye, dropped significantly as both teams played cautiously. TRAU, with more shots on goal, tried to breach the NEROCA citadel but were held at bay. Meanwhile, NEROCA tried to play on the counter-attack and catch their opponents offside. In the 70th minute, Songpu burst onto goal but a cracking tackle by the TRAU defense left him out of steam as the ball went out for a goal kick.
Both teams cancelled each other out and at the end of time, both teams shared the spoils of battle.