A beaming Bhogtoram Mawroh comments on Lajong’s win over Aizawl, with particular focus on Redeem Tlang and praise for defenders Aiban Dohling and Kenstar Kharshong
As always I found it difficult to get out of my bed this morning.
Damn the day I read an article which said that one should sleep around 8 hours to give optimum relaxation to the body. But earning a livelihood can be a very strong motivation for disregarding any sane advice and every morning I would be forced to wake up, sometimes, with only five hours of sleep.
But today there was something different about the morning. It was bright, it was beautiful, it was full of hope, it was the morning following Lajong’s victory over Aizawl. With this win Lajong have taken a giant step in ensuring that they will feature in next year’s edition as well.
A win like this is especially something to be proud of. It came under trying circumstances and achieved by a team that has some of the most inexperienced players in the I-League. Though the Indian Arrows have a young team they had played matches across the world in preparation for the U-17 World Cup. In the tournament itself they played against some of the best teams in the world. So, in reality, despite their age their experience of top flight football is something which few players in India can boast of.
The job is not yet over and there is one more match to go. There were some strange decisions made by the coach in the starting lineup that were a little surprising (I will come to them later). Dropping Abdoulaye Koffi from the starting lineup, however, was the right decision, which paid dividends in the second half when he finally came to score his goal.
When you know that you have to fight for your place in the team there is a hunger and desperation in your game, which can only benefit a team. It also sent a message to Saihou Jagne, who knew that he had to perform if he wants to keep his place in the team. The result was his man-of-the-match performance (Nidhin Lal could have been a contender as well).
In this way, everyone is kept on their toes knowing that performance is the only thing that is going to guarantee their place in the team. Such an environment is also good for the younger players who will learn to adapt to the pressure of playing football at the highest level.
For the Indian players, though, I would suggest a little more patience because unlike the foreigners they need more time and encouragement. But even they have to fight for their position in the team after a point of time. There are a few players in this team who have got the chances they deserved in the recent past. It is time that they start taking responsibility and show greater leadership in the team.
One of them is Redeem Tlang. I believe that Redeem should have made more than 50 (first XI) appearances for the team since his debut season in 2013. His development was greatly curtailed because of the lack of game time. By now he should have been a player fighting for a place, at least, in the India probables list. At the moment, there are players who are putting in more consistent performances than him but the confidence that he will get by just being considered will do him a great deal of good.
I remember a game (probably against Nangkiew Irat) in the Shillong Premier League where Redeem looked completely out of sorts. But after he got a goal (from a shot from outside the box) he was a completely different player. He was quicker, more confident and looked the best player on the pitch. He is a player who needs a lot of confidence and belief. When he has that he can be a difference maker.
In this season as well, even though Redeem’s performances have been patchy on occasions, he makes the game look easy whenever he is on the pitch. It looked like he was floating in the air while others were struggling on the ground.
One issue I have had with his performance was that after he began well his play greatly deteriorated in terms of his positional discipline. He was playing wide but was constantly drifting to the middle of the pitch when he was not getting the ball. This made the game congested with no space to operate for Lajong’s attackers. Being a goal-scoring winger he has to attack the box. But that has to happen when the ball is delivered into the box and not before that. That way he keeps the defence on their toes by making them defend on many fronts. Constantly drifting inside to get the ball allows the defence to concentrate only one side of the pitch which makes it easier to defend.
But the game he played against Aizawl was different. Losing Hardycliff Nongbri was a big blow and I was very worried the impact it might have on the balance of the team. This was because of the strange decision to play Novin Gurung as a midfielder. He lost the ball on occasions and this only made me nervous. I have never seen Redeem play as part of the midfield, so I was not sure about the move. But with Samuel Lalmuanpuia playing in the midfield rather than upfront this somehow made up for the loss of Hardy.
This, though, left Jagne all alone which made it difficult to attack the opposition goal. This was rectified in the second half by changing the position of the players and allowing them to play in their natural positions. Bringing in Koffi also gave more support for Jagne and stretched Aizawl’s defence. The three-man midfield allowed Redeem and Samuela to rotate their position with Daniel Odafin providing cover.
Redeem made some great runs and with a little more luck could have had a goal for himself. He, though, was instrumental in creating both the goals for the team. His energy allowed him to pick up the loose ball from near the touchline and pass it to Jagne. At the same time he continued his run but instead of running into the box he made a diagonal run away from the defender creating a confusion in the defender as to whether to follow him or stick to Jagne (when he was out of form he would have either ran with the ball to the box or continued running in a straight line into the box after passing the ball). In this confusion the defender did nothing, he neither closed down Jagne nor pursued Redeem. This allowed Jagne the space to play the cross which led to the first goal through a beautiful header from Koffi.
The second goal was a great first touch pass to Jagne who easily out-muscled the opposition defender to score the second goal. In both these goals Redeem was the creator and that was the difference in his play from the matches in which he was out of form. For me, Redeem should look to create for others and then think about scoring goals for himself. If he is playing as the striker upfront then that’s a different issue. But as long as he is playing in other positions creating (crossing the ball early, releasing it to a fellow player) should be the first priority. Goals for him will come in the process.
Among the other players, Aiban Dohling is looking like a man among other boys who are also growing up fast. There is an energy, an aggression and a tenacity in the way he plays. While Kenstar Kharshong is the more cultured player, Aiban is the more attacking defender.
Whether it is heading, tackling or clearing, he gives it his all. If these two continue with their good form they can be the bedrock of Lajong’s defence for the future as well. However, like I said before, there is still a match to go and East Bengal are a top team with very good players. They will come aggressively at Lajong and the last match will be the most important one.
Proud of a great win and looking forward towards another strong performance one last time. All the best.