NEROCA FC defeated Indian Arrows 3-0 in an I-League clash at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium, Imphal, on Friday.
Katsumi Yusa (29'), Felix Chidi (54') and Malemnganba Meitei (84') were on target for the hosts who have now displaced Minerva Punjab (11) on account of a better goal difference (+3) as compared to the defending champions but still six points adrift from Chennai City atop while the Arrows remain at the bottom with three points.
The home side's coach, Manuel Retamero, made no changes from his side that defeated Shillong Lajong 2-1. Meanwhile, despite facing a defeat against Minerva Punjab, the Arrows' tactician Floyd Pinto also chose to continue with the same 11.
The young Indian side were forced on the back foot for the initial exchanges but were still the first to get a shot on target, though it was a feeble attempt by Rahim Ali that called for an easy save for Lalit Thapa in the ninth minute.
In a good opportunity that befell the hosts in the 15th minute, Narender did rather well to ward off Chidi's attempt from Malem's cross from the right as the Arrows defender made a timely intervention.
The Arrows had a couple of chances as Rahul was kept at bay by Eduardo Ferreira from receiving Rahim Ali's delivery minutes before Rahim himself headed wide from a corner taken by Sanjeev Stalin in the 25th minute.
Neroca eventually broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when Yusa meticulously flicked the ball past Prabsukhan Gill from a tight angle after being fed by Subash Singh as the Arrows defence lacked communication in the box.
Rahul KP failed to get a final touch on the ball before Lalit Thapa scooped the ball off his feet in a one-on-one situation that was created by Rahim in the 34th minute.
The visitors could have at least pulled back a goal before half-time as Rahul was once again the guilty party for the way he smashed his attempt wide after Rahim had done all the necessary spadework.
It took Neroca less than 10 minutes in the second half as Chidi was left all alone with the job to beat Gill and the Nigerian placed it at the left of the Arrows goalkeeper.
The hosts began soaking up the pressure until around the final 10 minutes or so which is when Rahul headed straight to Thapa in the 64th minute, which was the only clear opportunity the Arrows could create for themselves.
Retamero's side's decision then to come out of their shell almost instantaneously paid off as Malem strolled at the far post to slot in Williams' cross from the right to make it 3-0 in the 84th minute.