Tangwa Ragui put the Orange Brigade ahead in the 16th minute, only to be leveled three minutes later by Komron Tursunov. Thomio Neroka then took the lead again, before Nigerian John Chidi took advantage of a defensive error to score an insurance goal in the 50th minute of the second half.
This was the first game in Group C and more importantly the first Durand Cup football match in the state of Manipur.
The nerves of the derby were clear from end to end as well as tough football was also on display from the opening whistle and both sides were unwilling to give an inch. True had the first real chance as the Neroca defense was caught but keeper Soram Porei was more than up to the task.
Then came the goal, a fine team effort by Orange Brigade involving a cross from John and Lunminlen Haokip, who was brilliantly side-footed by Tangwa, who was literally bulldozed into the box. However, Neroca’s joy was short-lived as classy Komron Tursunov was on the scoresheet at the end of a cross from Khannagam.
Attacks continued from both ends and Neroca slowly rose up and finally got their reward when Thomio pushed forward from a cross overlapping Singson. Orange supporters were certainly more than happy to go into the break and they will stay that way until the end.
Any hope of victory that True would have cherished at the break evaporated in just five minutes into the second half and was largely his own. John Chidi, always lurking around, intercepted a horrific back-pass to the keeper and calmly slammed home and was 3-1 up in the Neroca derby.
After the third goal, their opponents looked a bit off-putting and both teams seemed satisfied with possession of the ball. There was a slight needle on the field, especially to the dismay of True’s players.
True gave his all in the last 10-minute or so to be fair, but keeper Porei stood tall. His best chance to make a comeback came in the fourth minute of extra time when Arjun Singh found Comeron with a brilliant cross from the right, but to everyone’s surprise, the Tajik missed a relatively easy tap-in by his standards. Went.
Neroca now have a long break before their second game, from Army Raid on 24 August at the same venue, while True also face off against Hyderabad FC on 22 August in Khuman Lampak.
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