Shillong, Feb 28: They’ve only ever beaten East Bengal five times in 15 I-League meetings, but there’s a particular occasion when Shillong Lajong seem to love taking on the Kolkata giants – in season-ending matches.
Lajong will host East Bengal in the Reds’ final game of I-League 2017-18 on 5th March at the JN Stadium. It won’t be the last for East Bengal, however, as they will face NEROCA on 8th March.
The two sides have met in a season-ender three previous times and Lajong have come out victorious in each, our TSR statisticians tell us. In fact, SLFC haven’t won any of their other five year-enders against other clubs – they appear to thrive against East Bengal in the last match of a season.
Lajong have been on the receiving end of some punishing defeats at the hands of the Red & Golds. You don’t have to think far – there was that 5-1 hammering in December in Kolkata, as well as a 4-0 defeat in 2015-16. There was also that 4-0 loss in 2012-13 in Shillong, Lajong’s worst ever margin of defeat in a home match in the I-League.
But it’s a very different story when we get to the final match of a season.
12th May 2013
The first season-ending victory against EB came on the road, with the Reds taking the contest 1-0, thanks to an eighth minute goal from Taisuke Matsugae. It was only Lajong’s second win in the last seven games of the 2012-13 season, but it allowed the Shillong-based side to end their campaign on a happy note. They weren’t in danger of relegation by that point and finished a reasonably comfortable 11th out of 14 teams.
30th May 2015
It was a little more hairy two years later when SLFC were in danger of the drop, right until their final match. Under the cosh, Lajong delivered a scintillating performance on home turf, thrashing East Bengal 5-1, with four of those goals coming in the second half, which the hosts completely dominated.
This was also Lajong’s highest margin of victory in an I-League match in Shillong as well as the last time one of their players registered a hat-trick in the competition, with Cornell Glen the hero on the day.
24th April 2016
A year later and Lajong faced the same opponents at the end of the season. They were again facing relegation, but lived to fight another I-League after beating EB 1-0 at home in a tense encounter. After a cautious first half from both teams, Isaac Vanmalsawma scored the most important goal of his burgeoning career in the second half to give Lajong the winner, which then coach Thangboi Singto dubbed a “blessing from God” after the game.
(Shillong Lajong file photo of the 30th May 2015 match against East Bengal)