Bhogtoram Mawroh is back with his second guest article, this time focusing on the likes of Kenstar Kharshong, Hardycliff Nongbri and Redeem Tlang


Nothing tastes sweeter than a derby victory.

The win against NEROCA was very important for Lajong to bring their season back on track. For NEROCA it was a big blow to their title aspirations.

Even if they win the next game league leaders Minerva Punjab have the advantage of two additional matches.

Gift Raikhan tried to put on a brave face by saying that the loss was exactly what the team required to shake them out of their complacency and it will act as a stepping stone in their march towards the I-League title.

It was an attempt to keep the morale of his players high after such a comprehensive loss. They will finish the season strong, but, should they lose against Minerva in the next game, it will become very difficult for them to win the title.

Lajong, on the other hand, still have a shot at finishing third but after having played the joint highest number of games (12 apiece with Indian Arrows) that opportunity is fast approaching an end.

The match against NEROCA was a game of many clichés, viz, if you start strong you will end the game strong and if you take your chances you will win the match.

The match started with a good pace with Lajong not allowing NEROCA to settle down. While Lajong’s midfielders were constantly harrying the opposition attackers, their own attackers physically intimidated the opposition’s defenders.

The two goals scored by Lajong were more a case of the strikers winning the physical battle rather than outfoxing the defenders with their skill. And once the two goals were scored it became easier for Lajong to control the game. NEROCA could have all the possession they wanted but Lajong didn’t let them put through balls through to the final third while crosses from the flanks were easily dealt with.

In defence, as always, Laurence Doe stood tall and was ably supported by Oh Juho and Kenstar Kharshong.

Kenstar’s performance has really been a revelation. He had performed very well in the Shillong Premier League, but I was a bit sceptical about him playing against physically stronger strikers in the I-league.

His performance has been a very pleasant surprise. I think he can get stronger but his positioning and ability to win aerial duels will continue to be his greatest strength. The fact that he can also find a pass will make him an excellent ball-playing defender in the future. He has to learn all that he can from Laurence and Juho and continue improving.

Hardycliff Nongbri has been growing from strength to strength in every match. He started the season by playing cautiously but as the season has progressed he has been showing greater vision. The fact that he is the ultimate team player was evident many times, such as when he sacrifices his attacking game by being one of the first players to press the opposition players in defence. So far, he has been the best young player in the team for me. The only thing missing now is a goal and I hope it comes sooner than later.

But perhaps the most important player in the team is Daniel Odafin. He not only shields the defence but also starts the attack. Like in every match he was the one who stopped the NEROCA attackers from entering the box. The tackles were a bit reckless and I am surprised that he didn’t get a yellow card for some of his challenges. But his energy is what drives the team and he has to play every remaining game if Lajong are to finish stronger.

The team’s defence was very strong. Except for the first chance that fell to Subash Singh in the first few minutes, there were no other clear-cut chances for NEROCA. The case of Subash Singh is very curious.

When he was playing for Pune FC he was one of my favourite players. For me he was better than Jeje Lalpeklhua. This opinion was also shared by one of the commentators during the first ISL, who stated that man for man Subash was much better than Jeje. He had the speed, the skill and the hunger to be the next great Indian striker after Sunil Chettri. And when he signed for Lajong I was very happy.

However, his career never took the direction that he may have wanted. Jeje may not be as good as Subash but he did well in the most important thing that matters for a striker – getting into good positions and scoring goals. Subash still has time to play for India and I hope that he does well in the remaining matches. He may still be an Indian player but he could have been much more than that.

Back to Lajong, when I look at Redeem Tlang’s performance up until now I am worried that he might end up like Subash. He still has age on his side but Subash was a much more accomplished player than Redeem at the same stage.

This was the season when Redeem had to take his performance a notch higher. But after beginning the season well he has regressed in the last few matches. As someone who is watching the game from outside I feel that he has to have clarity in his game plan. Instead of being in his designated position (right or left winger) he has been wandering around the pitch.

I don’t know if he is playing as a number 7, number 10 or a number 9. When he was playing well in the first few matches he stuck to his wide position and helped the right back or the left back to overlap. It also allowed him to play some delightful crosses. But since his loss of form he has been drifting more and more to the middle.

The goal that he scored against Aizawl saw him run from his wide position to pick up a loose ball. Let the central attackers play central, let the midfielders control the game in the middle and wide players provide the width. I don’t know if this is the reason for his lack of form or if he is playing this way because he is out of form.

Redeem is a young player and he has time on his hand. But there are many young players like him (and younger) who are doing better. Very soon young players from the academy itself will be pushing for his position in the team. For his and our sake, I hope that he can come out of his slump soon and be the player that many of us believe he can be – an absolute delight and a match winner!

(TSR file photo)

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