Shillong, Feb 19: Shillong Lajong FC won their third North East derby of I-League 2017-18 with a solid 2-1 result over Aizawl FC at the JN Stadium here tonight. This was SLFC’s 50th I-League victory of all time.
Super sub Abdoulaye Koffi, who came on at the start of the second half, perfectly placed a header off a Saihou Jagne cross in the 58th minute to put Lajong ahead. Man-of-the-match Jagne then made it 2-0 in the 73rd minute when he was fed a ball on the edge of the box and, going one-on-one with the goalkeeper, slotted the ball wide of him and into the net in front of 6,300 fans (many of them backing Aizawl). Leonce Dodoz pulled a goal back for the visitors in the fifth minute of stoppage time off a rebound, but the hosts had to thank their defenders and goalkeeper Nidhin Lal for never letting Aizawl get into the game except for that one goal.
It was SLFC’s first win in five games, while Aizawl continue with their winless run – it’s now a straight eight I-League matches for them without victory.
It was a little messy to begin with from both sides, but Lajong’s defence was making more mistakes.
Kenstar Kharshong was guilty of one in only the sixth minute when he failed to clear a long ball, which opened up a chance for solitary Dodoz, but his low effort was put out for a corner by the diving Lal.
At the other end Jagne was a lone presence up front for the hosts and there were always three Aizawl defenders ready to smother him if a long ball came his way. Lajong were only really challenging when they pushed forward more men in support but they only switched to this later on in the first half.
The Reds were disadvantaged early on when midfielder Hardycliff Nongbri had to be taken off with what looked liked a leg injury in only the 14th minute, with Redeem Tlang coming on.
Tlang saw some early action when in the 20th minute he pulled off a left-footer from just outside the box. The strike was on target, but Aizawl keeper Avilash Paul scooped it up on his second attempt with bad bounce possibly playing a part in the fumble. The Lajong No. 19 would later tap another good chance over the bar.
Paul was called into action quite regularly, having to punch dangerous free-kicks and corners from SLFC.
Aizawl slowed down a bit after showing plenty of pace early on, but they still managed to create a couple of opportunities. First Dodoz put a neat ball towards Lalthathanga, but the latter was wayward from the edge of the Lajong box. The visitors then almost grabbed a goal in the last action of the first half, but a free-kick was sent narrowly off the mark.
The second half was replete with end-to-end action. Koffi’s introduction in place of Kynsailang Khongsit at the start of the second half lent more muscle to the Reds up front, while Aizawl were also furiously trying to bag the lead.
Their best chance came in the 67th minute as they searched for the equaliser. A nice cross was delivered from the right flank into the box and Lal missed it, but the Lajong custodian recovered brilliantly to block a follow-up shot, which was quite possibly the save of the day.
Aizawl kept pressing forward, but that left them a little vulnerable at the back and when Lajong doubled the lead through Jagne their hopes quickly soured. The defending champions showed great fight, to be sure, but utterly lacked in finishing and they go home licking their wounds.