Boubacar Diarra gave NEROCA the lead in the ninth minute but Naocha Singh equalised for TRAU in the 41st minute before Krishnananda Singh scored the match-winner in the 64th minute.
It was the home match of TRAU though both the sides shared the stadium for I-League matches. This was TRAU’s first win in six matches in their debut season. They have lost thrice and drawn twice before Wednesday’s win.
Both sides made three changes each from their previous match starting eleven, with TRAU FC head coach Dimitris Dimitriou opting to start with Krishnannanda Singh and Naocha Singh upfront to partner Princewill Emeka. Geron Augustus Williams also found a place in the midfield three, but the backline remained unchanged.
Gift Raikhan recalled Togo forward Zico Sekle to his NEROCA starting line-up, pairing up with Boubacar Diarra in the attack. Young midfielder Jiteshwar Singh was also named to start, ahead of Gaty Kouami. Zodingliana replaced Khanngam Horam, and found a place next to Khaminthang Lhungdim in the middle of the park.
The game truly lived up to its billing right from the kick-off. In the second minute, TRAU goalkeeper Mithun Samanta committed a mistake as his attempted clearance fell straight to the feet of Chanso Horam, who chipped it over the keeper, but Abhishek Das was at the right place to head it clear off the goal line.
NEROCA’s persistent pressing paid dividends quite early. In the ninth minute, a Sushil Meitei delivery inside the box was met with a ferocious left-footed volley from Boubacar Diarra, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance as Gift Raikhan’s men struck first blood in the Imphal derby.
TRAU did not waste any time in getting back on their feet and almost equalised in the 17th minute. A beautifully threaded pass by Phalguni Singh put Naocha Singh through on goal but he shot straight to the keeper.
The home side kept piling on the pressure. In the 41st minute, it was Emeka who delivered a cross which was met inside the six-yard box by an outstretched leg of Naocha Singh, and with the near post completely gaping, TRAU found their equaliser going into half-time.
The second half resumed with the same intensity, as Gift Raikhan wasted no time in making his first change. In the 48th minute, Gaty Kouami was brought on at the expense of Zico Sekle, who had a quiet first half. The change signalled a switch in formation, from a classical 4-4-2 to a more pragmatic 4-2-3-1, leaving Boubacar Diarra as the sole striker upfront.
In the 64th minute, the stadium erupted into a frenzy of celebration, as TRAU took the lead through Krishnananda Singh, who soared the highest to head home a corner taken by Angousana Luwang, leaving Devon Phillip stranded at the NEROCA goal.
TRAU almost added a third but Patrick Uche’s free-kick from about 30 yards out ricocheted off the woodwork, after Devon Phillip had initially gotten a fingertip to the goal-bound attempt.
Neroca had one last opportunity in the dying stages of the game, when a beautifully weighted Sushil Meitei set-piece fell to Diarra, but this time, he misjudged the flight of the ball in what would have been an easy header.