Shillong, Feb 18: The brakes have been applied hard on the respective campaigns of Shillong Lajong FC and Aizawl FC and both sides are hoping for a turnaround in form when they clash in match 77 of I-League 2017-18 at the JN Stadium here tomorrow.
Kick-off is at 8PM.
While Lajong have been victorious in just two of their last 11 matches, Aizawl aren’t doing much better, having not won any of their last seven I-League fixtures. SLFC have lost just once in five meetings with Aizawl in the competition and will hope they can keep up their good record. Both clubs have 18 points, but Lajong are in front in fifth place on head-to-head after beating the defending champions on December 18 in the reverse fixture in Aizawl.
Although they’ve managed to hold ground in the mid-table despite their recent results, Lajong and Aizawl are not out of the relegation woods yet, with teams below them catching up fast; just three points separate Lajong and bottom team Indian Arrows (15), who are exempt from relegation.
At the pre-match press conference today, SLFC assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew said, “This is a very important match. It’s like a final, so to say, for us,” adding that he is confident but not overly so.
The hosts’ players were given two days off last week after an intensely busy schedule of fixtures left them barely any time to recuperate.
“At this stage we’ve been working on finishing and defending, but the boys needed a lot of recovery,” Kharsyntiew said.
Although Lajong have conceded 22 goals (the second most of any side) Kharsyntiew, who is head coach in all but name, said attacking is more of an issue.
“In most games we create chances but have not been clinical in scoring. Our young players have quality but are lacking a little in confidence while our foreigners have not had quality in striking,” he stated bluntly.
Also at the press conference was Lajong midfielder Hardycliff Nongbri, who has performed well in a season where he has made regular starts for the first time.
“A derby match is always important for us and we have to give our best to get three points,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aizawl sacked their coach Paulo Meneses prior to the 16th February game at Indian Arrows and brought in Santosh Kashyap, who previously coached Shillong-based clubs Rangdajied United and Royal Wahingdoh.
In Kashyap’s first match in charge Aizawl let leads slip twice to draw 2-2 against the All India Football Federation development team, which he referred to in a positive light today.
“We are feeling great and the players are positive. We almost got the win in the last match but at least we got a point,” Kashyap said.
The visitors have experienced a setback in terms of personnel, however, with Lalrosanga to miss the game because of a red card he picked up in the Arrows game, while Yugo Kobayashi and Kareem Nurain are out with injury, the latter for the rest of the season. In contrast, Lajong have a full squad to choose from.
Kashyap admitted that both clubs are in a “bad phase” but that “Lajong are a good team. They have experience and good foreigners. In a long season you can’t always be on top and win, win, win.”