In his latest column, Bhogtoram Mawroh looks at what is making Langsning tick so well this season – their teamwork.

For those who support Langsning it was a very emphatic performance by their team against Malki.

Langsning started aggressively and scored two early goals through Donborlang Nongkynrih, which extinguished any fight that Malki had in them. After that it was a matter of how many more goals Langsning would score. In the end the score line was 4-1 while it could have been worse.

For me it was a fascinating game in many respects. It proved again that it is tactics and not players who matter in football. When I look back at the game there are two things that stood out for me which Langsning did and which Malki didn’t.

The first is passing the ball to team mates. This may sound very simple but actually in most of the matches that I have watched, whether it be the First Division or Shillong Premier League, this is something that is absent in most games.

Recently, when Nangkiew Irat played against Rangdajied United, their midfielder did not pass the ball to his team mate who could have scored the goal which could have won them the match. He held on to the ball too long and the result was a draw.

What was frustrating was that in the same game there were many more instances during which, if an early ball had been played, the outcome could have been different. This was seen time and again in other matches as well. Many players from the different teams in both the First Division and SPL have good individual skills, great energy and an admirable tenacity. But when it comes to playing together as a team they come to naught.

Langsning are at the top not because they have the best players but because they have the best team ethics. In contrast to how many teams play, Langsning’s players were always passing and moving. This gave them two advantages against their opposition. Firstly, it allowed players in better positions to get the ball early and take forward the attack, thus improving their chances to score. Secondly, it released the pressure on the defence by making sure that the opposition was not able to concentrate on specific players for closing down and winning the ball.

Quick ball passing helped Langsning both in defence and in attack. The best example was when Donborlang picked the ball up in his half from the fullback and passed it down the line to Donlad Diengdoh, who had made a run across the defender. By that time Donborlang had already scored two goals and was on a lookout for a hat-trick. But instead of dribbling the ball he passed it to the player in the most offensive position. No one held on the ball for too long.

Langsning’s players circulated the ball very well among each other, thus blunting any attack that Malki could muster while launching quick attacks of their own. The other thing that was noticeable in the way Langsning played was how they always had an extra player in every area of the pitch. Langsning played with a 4-2-1-3, while Malki chose to go with a 4-4-1-1. This meant that Malki were already a man short in the midfield. They were further outnumbered with Donlad, who played as the lone striker, coming into the midfield to give support to his midfielders. So essentially, Marlangki Suting and Ronnie Nongbri were outnumbered 2-4.

The same thing happened on the wings as well. Against one of Malki’s fullbacks Langsning had two players surrounding him. And when Langsning attacked against three of Malki’s defenders (one fullback would be out of position) they had three to four players – the three strikers (Donlad, Donbor and Figo Syndai) and Ebormi Buam (playing as the number 10) –  putting pressure.

By overloading different areas of the pitch they made sure Malki were put under constant pressure. In this way, very few attacks were launched by Malki because they were always pegged back by Langsning’s intense pressure.

Such high intensity, however, means that a lot is demanded of the players in terms of mental and physical effort. The toll that it takes was evident in the last few minutes when Donborlang, who had a wonderful game, was seen trying to catch his breath after putting in a superhuman effort throughout the 90 minutes.

He began by playing as one of the three strikers and was shifted to the central striker’s position with Donlad dropping deep in the second half. He closed down his opponents very well and made quick darting runs into the box to score his goals.

Two incidents highlighted his commitment and tenacity. One was when he closed down the goalkeeper and won the ball. He should have taken the shot (which could have brought him his hat-trick) but chose to pass the ball to Kynsaibor Lhuid, who was called offside. And then there was the incident in the first half when he passed the ball to Donlad when he could have dribbled himself. This shows that even in the heat of the game he is still thinking about what’s best for the team.

In fact, all of Langsning’s players displayed great team ethics. When you are in good form you must try to cash on it as much as possible. It is very important that in the next few games Donborlang tries to either convert as many opportunities or create as many chances as possible for his team mates. This will not only strengthen his claim to a place in the playing XI, but when his form inevitably dips the recollection of what he achieved will help him come out of a bad slump.

As for the effort he put in this match, he has to do it again and again and again. Elite football is not only determined by tactics and technique but also the speed at which the game is played. How far Donborlang or any player from Langsning or other teams from Meghalaya can go will depend on their hard work.

The only thing I wish is that when they reach that level they should be ready. From Malki Primrose Lamat was the only shining light and he was grossly underutilised in this game.

Coach Darlong used the same tactics he did against MLP. He played Primrose as the number 10 but then used him to play as the furthest player upfront, allowing Alem Khongwir to drop inside the midfield. But when Langsning scored the two early goals he played Alem and Primrose together in a 4-4-2. This further isolated Ronnie and Marlangki. Instead the system should have changed to a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-3. This would have allowed Primrose to come inside the midfield, help out the midfielders, get hold of the ball and create chances for Alem or the other attackers.

Instead Primrose was stuck upfront devoid of any service himself and not able to create any chance for others as well. In the second half Malki started well but the tactics remained the same. Inevitably Langsning scored two more goals.

For me Alem’s performance was the most disappointing. He got many chances but couldn’t convert any of them. It was the same story all over again. His phenomenal speed was again on display as the defenders found it difficult to keep up with him when he ran with the ball. But if speed is what makes a great footballer then Usain Bolt will become the world’s best player tomorrow.

With Langsning playing a very high line there was a lot of space on offer, especially on the flanks, but he couldn’t use any.

Malki’s loss is very disappointing because I always seen Malki supporters coming for every game. Many a time they sit near me. Losing is not a problem but being outplayed is. Malki, I think, will still make the semifinals but it could get very tricky if they don’t find a system that suits them.

As for Langsning, both the team and the players have evolved a lot from last year. I am most pleased to see that now they are more decisive in their performances. Last year they lacked ruthlessness, which is on full display this season. Players have also improved considerably.

The best example for me is Fullmoon Mukhim, who had always been a solid player. But he looked a little slow and unaware of his surroundings sometimes. This season he looks more alert and quick on his feet. Like him others have also improved. The team as a whole is evolving and if they win the SPL they should try again for I-League promotion.

Personally and without any disrespect I think some of the players from this Langsning team are better than the players NorthEast United FC had in their squad in last year’s Indian Super League. This year NEUFC have Redeem Tlang and Rupert Nongrum and I am expecting a big performance from both of them.

Langsning’s march to another SPL is great news for their supporters. But as a neutral I am hoping that other teams around them can learn their tactics and challenge them more strongly. Can Rangdajied do it? After watching their games against Nangkiew Irat and Sawmer I am not sure. Only Shillong Lajong have the best chance to stop Langsning. But whichever team does it, it will force Bah Hering Shangpliang to come up with new tactics to counter them and this will force the players to improve more. Such a situation will not only benefit Langsning but Meghalaya football in general.

(TSR photo)

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