NEROCA FC edged Real Kashmir 1-0 in a 2019-20 I-League tie at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal, Manipur, on Tuesday afternoon.
Gift Raikhan made as many as five changes for the home side's first 11 to include the likes of Dhananjoy Singh, Siam Hanghal, Varun Thokchom, Imran Khan and Pritam Singh. Whereas David Robertson made just the one change to have Farhan Ganie start in place of Altamash Sayed.
The hosts had the early opportunities from set-pieces wherein Taryk Sampson and Diarra headed wide from their respective chances inside 10 minutes but the team from Kashmir soon saw the momentum in their favour.
Kallum Higginbotham was showering in the crosses as Gnohere Krizo headed one of the deliveries in the 17th minute in the path of Mason Robertson but a bit out of reach for him. Phillip was then at hand to effect a double save to deny Robertson and Krizo from the rebound before Sampson blocked out the eventual shot by Higgingbotham.
Raikhan, who was already missing the services of Diawara at the heart of the defense due to injury, was forced into taking off Sampson who seemed to have pulled his hamstring.
Just before half-time, however, NEROCA could have well gone ahead but for the alertness of rival goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa to narrow the angle on Diarra's shot after the Malian was set up by Varun Thokchom.
Crossing over, another of Higginbotham's inch-perfect crosses resulted in Krizo's header being tipped over by Phillip, who kept out the Ivorian once again in the 53rd minute.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 62nd minute when Diarra expertly directed his header over Lachenpa and into the back of the net off a cross from Pritam.
Phillip had his role to play in keeping the scoreline such by throwing himself at Robertson's attempt in the 81st minute as the win helped NEROCA join the mid-table cluster with eight points from seven games while Real Kashmir have six points and a game in hand comparatively.