Sudeva Delhi FC became the first team to be relegated from the I-League 2022-23 after playing out a 3-3 draw against NEROCA FC at the Chhatrasal Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday.
In a match that featured plenty of quality goals, NEROCA took a two-goal lead through Bayi Kamo Stephane and Jourdaine Fletcher, which was quickly cancelled out by a stunning brace from Alexis Gomez before half-time. The Argentine completed his hattrick early in the second half and Sudeva seemed to live to fight another day until substitute Michael Kporvi equalised in the dying minutes of the game.
NEROCA had a dream start to the game and took the lead just four minutes in. From the left wing, Mirjalol Kasimov sent a cross towards the six-yard box, and Bayi Kamo Stephane, who got in behind Sudeva's Sukhandeep Singh, found the springs to jump above the defender and send his header past the home captain and goalkeeper Priyant Kumar Singh.
NEROCA continued to have the upper hand after taking the lead. Tangva Ragui went close in the 18th minute, while Sweden Fernandes was just wide with his curling attempt ten minutes later. At the half-hour mark, Jourdain Ronaldo Fletcher doubled NEROCA's lead. The Jamaican received the ball on the right wing and moved to a central position after shrugging off challenges from Sudeva's Sujit Sadhu and took a stinging shot at goal, which comfortably beat Priyant.
Following the second goal, Sudeva Delhi finally woke up, and the front three of R Lalbiakliana, Seilenthang Lotjem, and Alexis Gomez started to see more of the ball. Three minutes from half-time, Gomez displayed a moment of brilliance and scored directly from a corner with a curling right-footer which struck the post before going in.
Four minutes later into the add-on time, NEROCA's Lallenmang Sitlhou gave away a free-kick in the attacking third and from the dead ball, Gomez sent another curler, which hit the post before going into the back of the net to restore parity.
Six minutes into the second half, the Argentine scored from a corner kick for the second time to complete his hat trick and give Sudeva the lead for the first time in the game. This time Gomez aimed for substitute Shavkati Khotam from the corner, but his cross missed the Tajik and took a slight deflection off a white shirt on its way into the back of the net.
NEROCA tried to get back into the game, and Fletcher received a perfect opportunity to equalise in the 61st minute. The Jamaican took a free-kick just outside the penalty area, but his grounded shot was well wide.
In the 84th minute, Khotam had an opportunity to double the advantage for Sudeva. The substitute received a cross from Lalbiakliana at the top of the penalty area but failed to get the desired connection, as his weak effort went wide.
In the final minutes of the game, the Sudeva players calmly controlled possession. However, in stoppage time, a clearance from the NEROCA backline found substitute Michael Kporvi in the hosts' half. From almost 25 yards out, the Ghanaian took a shot on the half-volley and caught the goalkeeper Priyant Singh off his line to score the equaliser. (ANI)