Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], January 30 (ANI): Sreenidi Deccan FC closed the gap at the top to one point with a 3-2 win against NEROCA FC in their I-League match at the Deccan Arena in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Sreenidi Deccan cruised to a two-goal lead at half-time following goals from usual suspects Faysal Shayesteh and David Castaneda. Rosenberg Gabriel looked to have sealed the three points after netting the third in the second half, but late goals from NEROCA's Michael Kporvi and Jourdain Fletcher made things interesting towards the end. Eventually, the hosts were able to see off the Orange Brigade's spirited fightback and come out victorious.
Sreenidi Deccan did not take long to get into gear and opened the scoring in the third minute. Midfielder Faysal Shayesteh combined with captain David Castaneda to get into space just outside the penalty area before powering a low shot which went well past NEROCA custodian Soram Poirei into the bottom corner.
Slowly, the visitors started to exert control and almost equalised in the 16th minute. NEROCA's Sweden Fernandes sent a left-footed delivery inside the six-yard box, and Kamo Bayi, who was closest to the cross threw his body at it, hoping to get something on the ball but it flashed past the face of the goal, missing everyone.
Just on the brink of half-time, the league's top-scorer Castaneda got on the scoresheet and doubled the lead for the hosts. Congolese midfielder Stanislas Ankira played a rather hopeful ball to find Castaneda, but his pass was misjudged by Kasimov, which allowed the Colombian to run free at NEROCA's goal. The striker took his time before slotting a left-footed strike into the back of the net.
NEROCA started the second period with a sense of urgency, and head coach Wangkhem Khogen Singh introduced early changes as the visitors went straight on to attack. In the 50th minute, Jourdaine Fletcher hit the crossbar with a solid free-kick before Fernandes forced a great save from home custodian Ubaid CK, who managed to get down in time to palm away a low shot from the winger.
Soon on the other end, Sreenidi's Rosenberg Gabriel had a golden opportunity to virtually kill the game off. A shot from Castaneda deflected onto his path, and with just the goalkeeper to beat from six yards out, the winger hit the post. Gabriel, however, redeemed himself and got on the scoresheet in the 74th minute. Substitute Ramhlunchhunga, who had been on the pitch for just two minutes, whipped in an inch-perfect cross from the left wing as Gabriel got on the other end to send the ball into the bottom corner with a deft finish.
Just when everyone thought the hosts were in total control, a defensive lapse gave the visitors a way back into the contest. In the 78th minute, Mohamed Awal had his pockets picked by his countryman and NEROCA substitute Michael Kporvi inside the box. The Ghanaian then rounded goalkeeper Ubaid and got one back for the visitors.
With just six minutes of regulation time left, Kporvi's strike partner Fletcher made his way into the Sreenidi penalty area and was brought down by Asheer Akhtar. The referee blew his whistle and Fletcher himself stood behind the spot kick. The Jamaican calmly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and set up a nail-biting finish to the encounter.
The final minutes saw the Orange Brigade pile on the pressure for the equaliser, however, with a compact defensive shape and proper game management, the Deccan Warriors made sure there were no further errors and took all three points. (ANI)