Aizawl, November 06, 2018: The Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Aizawl, Mizoram, is all set to host the 12th Hero I-League’s second Northeastern derby as the local side and former champions Aizawl FC take on neighbours Neroca FC of Manipur on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. The game is slated for a 2 PM kick-off.
Both sides are languishing at the bottom of the table with identical returns of a draw and a loss so in their two previous games so far. This will be Aizawl’s first home game of the season while contrastingly for Neroca, it will be their first away encounter.
In the previous 11th Hero I-League edition, which was also Neroca’s debut in India’s top-flight football league, the two neighbours met twice and it was the side from Manipur which managed to edge out the 10th edition champions in one encounter while the other ended goalless.
Aizawl did exceedingly well to salvage a point from their last game away at Kolkata against Mohun Bagan, thanks to a stunning free-kick by ‘super sub’ David Lalrinmuana in the dying minutes. Neroca, on the other hand, will be smarting from the fact that their two opening games at home could deliver only a point.
Both coaches, however, Aizawl’s Gift Raikhan and Neroca’s Spanish recruit Manuel Fraile, will be desperately hoping that their forwards begin to fire.
Besides Mapuia’s strike against Bagan and David’s free-kick, Aizawl’s foreign strikers Ansumanah Kromah and Zikahi Dodoz have not been in the best of form. Kromah scored off a penalty in their first game against Shillong while Dodoz has failed to open his account and even lost his place in the starting eleven against Mohun Bagan.
Gift Raikhan, who incidentally will be coaching against his former side, reflected the confidence gained from the Bagan outing in the pre-match presser stating, “Our preparation is going good, we are ready to face Neroca FC tomorrow. I know them very closely and I respect them as a team. We haven’t started the season very well but after the game against Mohun Bagan, we feel very confident. When quizzed on David getting a start he said, “ David is a good player but I focus on every player in our team. Not only David but there are many players who will be my key players this time.”
Neroca has also had the same problem with forwards Felix Odili Chidi and Singham Subhash Singh yet to open their goalscoring account. Regular substitute Ronald Singh has also not got on the scoresheet so far and Neroca’s only goal so far has come from Brazilian centre-back Eduardo Ferreira.
Ronald, in the pre-match presser, said, “ We are focused on stealing three points tomorrow. Our team is prepared to face the challenge against Aizawl. They are a very strong team and we should be careful before taking any risk.” When asked if there was any pressure on the team he retorted, “No there is no pressure on our team but yes we have to work hard to gain the points.”