KOLKATA: Southern Samity opened their campaign in the Final Round of the 2016/17 2nd Division League with a 1-1 draw against Neroca FC at Barasat Stadium on Friday.

Though Manipur outfit outplayed their Kolkata counterparts, but in a match featuring plenty of effort and endeavour, the defences enjoyed the ascendancy to ensure both teams finished with a share of the spoils. After a barren first-half, Odafa Okolie gave Southern Samity the lead, however it was cancelled out almost immediately by Ejiogu Chinedu Emmanuel.

Southern Samity began proceedings with the visitors pushing through Arata Izumi and Sushil Singh doing well with a try each. However, eight minutes into the game the visitors also suffered a blow as Sushil went off with an injury and was replaced by Johnson Singh.

The hosts took time to settle down but with just one striker in Odafa, he was always going to be upstaged upfront. However, the Nigerian had his moment and almost opened the account in the 13th minute but could not keep his outstretched connection within the framework.

With mid-field territorial advantage shared, Neroca kept the Southern Samity defence alert. Arata’s pace proved too hot for the Southern Samity defence and coupled with moments of individual brilliance created chances aplenty all through the game.

Meanwhile, Southern Samity also went close through Basanta Singh. The winger raced in, but once a yard inside the box he opted to pass Odafa when a finish seemed a better option. As a result, another chance went unappreciated.

Thereafter, both sides engaged in an end-to-end battle but couldn’t break the deadlock as both sides went into the breather tied at goalless.

Post resumption, Southern Samity saw more of the ball but it was Neroca who looked dangerous on the counter attacks. The hosts though had another great opening when a Shylo Malsawmtluanga pass found Manvir Singh free in the box but the young striker could not hit the target.

Neroca continued to push up and create chances but lacked the finishing touch in the rival box. Meanwhile, at the other end, Southern Samity managed to take the lead against the run of the play when Odafa made his experience count and put the hosts into the lead in the 72nd minute.

Basanta got the ball down on the left side, cut past a couple of defenders and found space inside the box. Though his attempt on goal was palmed away by Neroca keeper Arup Debnath but Odafa made no mistake in slotting the rebound home.

Neroca’s reaction was instant. It was Emmanuel who did the damage, combining well with Subhash Singh who picked the ball up in midfield and delivered a long ball that was chested down by Emmanuel before slotting past Sandip Nandy from close range in the 74th minute.

Towards the end, both sides battled hard looking for a winner, with Odafa having the closest one as he was left unmarked in a corner but the Nigerian talisman failed to score as the game ended in a stalemate.

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