Whether it’s in attack or defence, Langsning have been excellent this year, but Bhogtoram Mawroh sees the need for the team to go further if their players are to get experience of playing against quality opposition…

Langsning delivered the performance which was expected from them against Nangkiew Irat.

They played fast-paced football and once Kitboklang Pale scored the first goal one began fearing the worst for Nangkiew Irat. Ultimately they went down 4-1, which was not actually a very good reflection of the way they played.

In the early parts of the first half Nangkiew Irat had their chances and could have actually taken the lead. One thing one has to say about the team and its players is that they are a gritty bunch. What impressed me most about Nangkiew Irat was that even after conceding goals they still tried attacking and didn’t look completely deflated.

Altogether they had some 15-20 minutes in the game where they looked really good. And this is where the difference lies between them and the top teams. Top teams like Langsning play well throughout the 90 minutes, from the first whistle to the last. If Nangkiew Irat want to compete with the top teams they must try to stretch those 15-20 minutes to the full 90 minutes.

They have a good attitude best exemplified by their goalkeeper Maitshaphrang Kharumnuid who thunders at his players from his goalpost. I think they should be safe this year.

Langsning, on the other hand, continue to evolve and get better. Performances like in this match are no longer a surprise. They played with a back three consisting of Restom Khriam, Brolington Warlarpih and Dibinroy Nongspung, with Batskhem Tariang and Milancy Khongstia playing as the wingbacks. They didn’t look particularly comfortable with this formation in the first quarter of the game but started getting used to it as the game went on.

When Dibinroy went off with a hand injury Batskhem moved to the centre and Donborlang Nongkynrih played as the wingback. While all the attention is on Langsning’s attack, the work done by the defence is sometimes ignored. They have not conceded more than one goal in any match this season, which shows that their defensive side of the game is also very strong. When it comes to defence one tends to focus on Brolington (who I like to call captain fantastic), the ever-reliable Restom and the all-action Milancy. Dibinroy has actually been an unsung hero for the team since last season. He has played as the fullback, central half, central midfielder and, curiously, as striker in the Second Division League. I hope his injury is not very serious and that he can come back for the remaining games.

The three-man defence is a good strategy if the players can execute it. It provides more security, especially when there are good attacking fullbacks and wide players in the other teams, which the SPL actually has quite a few. This of course meant that Ebormi Buam played as part of the two-man midfield with Fullmoon Mukhim.

As always Fullmoon was putting in the interceptions and dictating the pace of the game. But it is Ebormi who really caught the eye and further displayed the progress that the team is making in terms of their development.

He scored a scorcher but it is not the goal but his distribution which was really impressive. In the second half he played some great long balls behind the defence. This was something which I have not seen many teams do.

This is not a clearance that many teams execute when they are under pressure or the percentage ball played to the sole striker who is supposed to control the ball and bring others into play. On many such occasions the striker loses the ball and the pressure is back on the team.

The balls that Ebormi played were accurate balls meant to stretch the defence and transfer the pressure to the opposition. He played these balls into open spaces and asked the runners from his team to go after them. This also pulls the central defenders from their position and creates spaces through the middle that can be exploited.

Against teams that like to press their opposition and swamp the box in numbers such long balls not only release pressure but also start an attack that can catch the opposition off-guard.

The ability to play such balls shows the versatility of Ebormi, who normally is played as the player behind the main striker or as a withdrawn striker. At the same time it shows the tactical acumen of Bah Hering Shangpliang, who is showing others a way to counter top teams who like pressing, teams like themselves and Lajong.

The change in tactics and progress that players are showing in their game also revealed the evolution that Langsning is making as a team. The way the team is progressing, for me, is actually a worry if they don’t win the SPL and the Second Division League. All the improvements will come to naught if they don’t win the SPL. This means that there cannot be any room for complacency.

In football a couple of bad moments can ruin the whole season. If I remember correctly when Rangdajied United won qualification for the I-League in 2013 it was Langsning who were one of the top teams from the first round. But in the final round they faltered while Rangdajied made history. They have to be wary of such things. And if Langsning win they have to compete and win the Second Division League.

I say this because the pace of the progress that Langsning are making means that there will be no local competition left for them next season, other than Lajong and perhaps Rangdajied. This is not good for the development of a team and its players.

The team that Langsning are today is because of the SPL trophy they won last season and the Second Division League campaign. Now they have to progress to the next stage. That can only happen when they have stronger competition.

Lajong are already in the I-League and so they are getting good competition, which is improving their players and getting them ready for ISL and international football with the national team.

The players that Langsning have are good enough to play at a higher level but they need to get there first. And in that they will need some help. During the Second Division League campaign they were the best team in their group and if only they had strikers who could put the ball in an empty net they would have won the group and the qualification.

This time I hope they start recruiting good foreign players early and not panic buy at the last moment. If they do that they will be in the I-League, I have no doubt about it.

As for the ISL going on now, it is good to see Aiborlang Khongjee and Eugeneson Lyngdoh coming back after long injuries. They will only get stronger with time.

Redeem Tlang, on the other hand, has already started very well at NorthEast United FC. He could have had an assist and a goal in the last game against FC Goa. But there will be many more opportunities to come. Redeem has always been a special player. Now he has the chance to shine at the highest level of Indian football. I hope he will put his head down and work hard for his team and his opportunity to become part of the Indian national team. All the best to Aibor, Eugene, Redeem and Rupert Nongrum for the ISL.

(TSR photo)

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