TWO LATE GOALS BY ROCHARZELA turned the match around for Aizawl FC today as they secured a thrilling 2-2 draw against Real Kashmir FC away from home.
Fighting hard against relegation, they faced an uphill task taking on RKFC, a club eyeing a top two finish, at Srinagar. Both the clubs created a good number of chances but the home team, led by the physical presence of Robin Singh up front, were more imposing on the attack.
The home team took the lead through a world class goal in the 36th minute when Mason Robertson curled a free kick like a mountain road, sending it around Aizawl's defensive wall and into the net. In the second half, RKFC doubled their lead when Ritwik Das found Kallum Higginbotham with a cross, which the latter slotted into the net.
The Snow Leopards had a chance to seal the victory when they earned a penalty 77 minutes in, but Robin Singh sent the spot kick wide. Minutes later, Aizawl FC got a penalty, and Rocharzela duly converted it, making it 2-1.
Looking to hold onto the lead, RKFC head coach David Robertson had replaced Robin Singh with Chesterpaul Lyngdoh at that point. But that lead didn't last long. At the 87th minute, Rocharzela found the net again; securing a thriller of a 2-2 draw for the visitors.
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This result holds several significant implications for both the clubs. For Aizawl FC, this late fight is a ray of hope as they battle to avoid relegation. Even with this one point, they have risen above the relegation spot by a smidgen. After 14 matches, they have 16 points. They have lost only one of their last five matches; a run of form that has lifted them out of a position where relegation appeared almost certain.
For the best performer of the match, Rocharzela, the late brace comes with added honour; with 6 goals to his name this season he's now the second highest scorer among Indians in both I-League and ISL, behind only Bengaluru FC's Sunil Chhetri.
For Real Kashmir FC, the strategic and individual mistakes in defence, especially late in the game, have cost two valuable points that could have taken them to top three today. While missing the penalty was a stroke of bad luck, their recent form which includes just one win in last four matches, indicates a downgrade from their title challenging run last season.