NEROCA FC were held to a 1-1 draw by Tiddim Road Union Athletic (TRAU) in their opening match of this year's Hero I-League here on Friday. (More Football News)
Varun Thokchom's 10th-minute strike was cancelled out by Joseph Olaleye's 15th-minute header as both the teams shared points in the Imphal derby.
As early as in the sixth 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's thunderous header off a Komron Tusirov corner kick grabbed the equaliser for TRAU.
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 forwards seemed to run out of steam as they were thwarted with ease by the NEROCA defence and both teams went into halftime tied at 1-1.
TRAU started with an attacking and positive intent 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 the 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 off guard.
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.