KOLKATA: Aizawl FC beat Neroca FC 2-1 in their fifth round I-League fixture at the Mohun Bagan Ground here on Saturday.
MC Malsawmzuala scored the winner in the 56th minute after Judah Emmanuel Garcia had cancelled PC Laldinpuia’s first-half header.
With the victory, the Mizo team now moves up the table with seven points and is placed four points behind leaders Churchill Brothers with one game in hand.
Neroca, who came into the match after a 4-1 defeat against Gokulam Kerala, started with attacking intent and, within three minutes, had two chances to score.
Khanngam Horam latched on a forward pass from Jude Garcia in the second minute but his shot was blocked and sent for a corner. Horam was again in the thick of things but without success.
Aizawl settled in after the early scare and threatened the Neroca goal through a number of corners. They, however, only tested the keeper in the 15th minute, when C Laldinpuia reached Malsawmtluanga’s corner but the defender’s header was straight at the keeper Bishorjit Singh.
Five minutes later, Bishorjit was forced to make another save to keep the scores equal as Ramhlunchhunga chested a cross down to his feet and took a shot. The Neroca custodian had to come off his line quickly and deny him the opener.
In the 28th minute, Aizawl were again denied the opening goal as Alfred Jaryan’s header was cleared off the goal line.
Aizawl kept threatening and were rewarded for their efforts in the 37th minute. An inswinging cross delivered by Malsawmtluanga was met by Laldinpuia, who sent his header past a stranded Bishorjit Singh in the Neroca goal.
The former champions almost doubled their lead in the 40th minute through Jaryan, but Bishorjit had no trouble in dealing with the shot, ensuring that his team went into half time with a single goal deficit.
Neroca returned with vigour after the break and levelled the score through Judah Emmanuel Garcia just before the 50th minute mark.
Songpu Singsit turned past his man in the centre of the park and found Garcia in space. The Trinidad and Tobago striker took a couple of touches before releasing a low powerful shot from outside the area, which zoomed past Lalmuansanga in goal.
With the scores equal, both teams started to attack with intent and this opened up the game.
Nathaniel Jude Garcia almost gave the Manipuri team the lead in the 55th minute, but his long-range freekick struck the top of the crossbar.
The third goal of the game came in the 56th minute and it was the former I-League champions who grabbed the lead for the second time.
A cross from the right flank caused panic inside the Neroca box and as the goalkeeper failed to deal with the long ball, MC Zuala headed the loose ball into an empty net to make it 2-1 in favour of Aizawl.