Hero I-League: Upbeat Neroca F.C. take on rock-bottom Shillong Lajong

Imphal, January 03, 2018: The 12th edition of the Hero I-League resumes after a short New Year break with Manipuri side Neroca F.C., currently second on the points table, up against bottom-placed Shillong Lajong at Khuman Lampak Stadium on Friday (2 pm IST).

The game also marks the beginning of the second half of the top-flight football league. Both teams will play their 11th game, having completed the first round of 10 games in the 11-team league. The winner of the Hero I-League will only emerge after the completion of the second round of 10 games for each team.

Neroca seem like a formidable unit under the stewardship of Spanish coach Manuel Fraile. Also, the return of key players like Katsumi Yusa, Singham Subhash Singh and Lalit Thapa will give them a major shot in the arm.

It may be noted that their Australian medio Aryn Glen Williams, striker Felix Chidi and defenders Eduardo, Varney Kallon and Ashok Singh are in good form. It would be difficult for the Shillong youngsters to play against this bunch at home!

“We must have focus because this team is now different. Now they are trying not to get relegated, take points. We are in very good momentum now. To be honest, we must get those three points, because our next game is against Mohun Bagan again,” said Fraile who displayed cautious optimism in the pre-match press chat.

On the other hand, Shillong will try and take heart from their previous game against Neroca where they lost 1-2 after a hard-fought clash. Buam scored a wonderful goal in that game and the likes of Sheen and captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia would also aim to replicate the good form displayed then.

Coach Alsion Kharsyntiew who chose to look at the positives had this to say: “I know we have been losing all other games, but if you look at the positive side it is good development for the young players. Tomorrow is a very important match for us as we need three points. I know it is difficult against Neroca. It is a good team with good experienced players but hopefully, our players will perform tomorrow. Last year when we were here we won our three points so hope to win it this year too.”

He, however, has injury concerns with defenders Rakesh Pradhan and Aibhan missing the last game. Also, his team’s unwanted record of having conceded a whopping 30 goals (by far the highest in the league) is a stat that cannot be overlooked.

Shillong have scored 11 goals so far while Neroca have 13 — an indicator of where the game may be won or lost.

The home side are unbeaten in their last five games, while Shillong were on the receiving end of a couple of 1-6 drubbings in two of their last three games. As things stand it would be tough for Shillong to stop Neroca.

But given that they possess a fearless young attack…you never know!

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