Nagaland football team started off their North East Dr. T Ao Trophy campaign on a winning note by defeating Arunachal Pradesh 4-1 in the first match here at the IG Stadium, Kohima on Monday.
The host team escaped a defeat from a sloppy start as they came from a goal down to beat Arunachal Pradesh. Hard luck for opponent team as crossbar denied Arunachal team twice in the game to double their advantage. Despite Nagaland’s winger Hitova Ayemi sending off in the 90th minute for two bookable offenses, it didn’t matter much as the captain Khwetelhi Thopi set up Ratobe N Poireng Zeliang to find the back of the net and finished the game 4-1.
Nagaland team got off to a dream start as Ayemi was brought down inside the area within 40 seconds of the match. But his weak penalty was easily saved by Arunachal custodian Jagom Loyi.
Nagaland team failed to find the back of the net despite dominating the match. Skipper Khwetelhi Thopi also was culpable of missing a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute.
The wasteful side was punished as Arunachal team took the lead in the 28th minute through Charu Lalum. In the making, Avinash Kharel’s crossing was ward off by Nagaland goalkeeper Neithovilie Chalieu but Charu Lalum got on time to fire home the first goal of the tournament for Arunachal team.
With the goal, Arunachal team got back their momentum to dominate the ball possession.
But Nagaland’s left winger Ratobe N Poireng Zeliang had other ideas for the team as he set-up the first goal for Rhitsho Mero through a corner kick to find the equalizer for Nagaland team in the 39th minute to end the first half 1-1.
The second half saw goalkeeper Jagom Loyi making some crucial saves to keep the match in stalemate. The best chance for Nagaland team to take the lead came through Letkhokai Kuki but his header was tap-out by the opponent keeper. But there was no stopping from Nagaland with the counter attacks as they fought to find the back of the net with substitute Tove Hokato Zhimomi getting the much needed goal in the 79th minute.
Minutes later, Rhitsho was fault and referee awarded the second penalty for Nagaland. This time Sinenlo Kath made no mistake to find the net in the 86th minute.
Hitova Ayemi was then send off in the 90th minute for two bookable offenses leaving the host team with 10 men on the pitch but Nagaland team didn’t felt much pressure as Ratobe got his name on the score sheet in the 93th minute to hand the victory for Nagaland team.
In the second match, six times champions Manipur thrashed Tripura 11-0.
Manipur scored seven in the first half and added another four in the second half.
Manipur’s forward Seminthang Baite and Nongdamba Singh scored two goals each, while Luginthang Kipgen, Henry Monshang, Sr. Kagaly Anal, Lalminlian Vaiphe, S. Kaphoi Singh, Nongdamba Singh, Luginthang Kipgen, Haolengou Kipgen scored a goal each during the riot. Up next in the group stage, Tripura will play against Nagaland while Manipur will play against Arunachal Pradesh on January 22.
Zale Neikha, advisor, Youth Resources & Sports who delivered the welcome address said the tournament has bought the region together under the theme “together We Can Soar”.
He also expressed hope that tournament will enable the NE region to stay connected and together achieve greater glories for the state and nation in the discipline of sports.
The advisor added that northeast has the potential to become a major hot spot for building sportspersons.
1st match: 2:00 pm
Sikkim Vs Assam
2nd match: 4:00 pm
Mizoram Vs Meghalaya