Neroca FC started their Cup campaign in a winning style, beating TRAU FC by 3-1 goals in their first derby match of 131st Durand Cup 2022 at Main Stadium Khuman Lampak.
The jam-packed stadium under the floodlight erupted in joy when Neroca FC Nigerian forward John Chidi Uzodinma banged home the winning goal in the presence of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister N Biren Singh applauding the winning team from the VIP enclosure.
The match began in a sombre note but picked up speed when Neroca FC found the mark with the opening goal from midfielder Tangva Ragui, anticipating a goalmouth cross from Lunminlen Haokip, pushed home to the left of TRAU keeper Bishorjit Singh in the 16th minute for the lead.
With a more aggressive approach, TRAU FC were quick to reply when Tajikistan forward Komron Tursunov with able help from Khangan Horam, fetched the equaliser in the 19th minute of the game.
With Neroca FC having more ball possession and having an offensive mindset, they soon took the lead when forward Thomyo L Shimray netted in a powerful header off a midfield cross, to consolidate 2-1 goals in the first half.
Although TRAU FC changed their gameplan in the second half but chances eluded them. However, Neroca FC quickly changed the complexion of the game when forward John Chidi Uzodima, who had a tough time earlier in the play, got his rhythm back in the 50th minute to smack home the winning goal, to the delight of the huge orange fans.
Neroca FC player Th James Singh and TRAU FC player Buanthanglun Samte got yellow cards from referee Umesh Bora.
Earlier, cultural dances, band display as well Durand Cup theme songs from Papon and Rewben Mashangva enthralled the jam packed audience till the arrival of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who attended as the chief guest, and CM Biren and GOC of Eastern Command.
Fireworks and release of balloons also marked the grand opening of the Durand Cup of Imphal edition.
The next match of August 20 at Main Stadium Khuman Lampak will have Chennaiyan FC taking on Army Red at 3 pm.