Bhogtoram Mawroh is terribly impressed with the way Langsning went about their business in the 1st Qualifier of SPL 2018 on Thursday against Shillong Lajong. He’s all-praise for the tactics of coach Hering Shangpliang and the way the players, like Milancy Khongstia, Kynsaibor Lhuid, Kitboklang Pale and Frolicson Dkhar, implemented them.

Langsning and Shillong Lajong are both very good teams with players of very high quality. But there is someone Langsning have who no team in the Shillong Premier League have: Bah Hering Shangpliang, the unassuming tactical genius.

Thursday was another example of how he plotted the victory of his team by outmanoeuvring the other team’s tactics. I wasn’t very sure of the 3-4-3 formation that he recently adopted. That left Langsning a midfielder short with someone with Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait having to warm the bench instead of dictating the game in the middle of the pitch.

Thursday’s game, however, vindicated that decision and also exemplified the tactical flexibility that this Langsning team possess. The most I have seen Langsning play is a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-1-3 with the front attackers swapping positions constantly and Ebormi Buam playing as the furthest midfielder joining them in the final third. The front three would also come inside to help create overloads in the midfield. And when the ball is won lightning fast attacks are launched that catch the opposition off-guard.

However, when Langsning play with a 3-4-3 some of that dynamism is lost, which was my worry. But, as was evident in the game the other day, it is actually a very attacking system which also lends defensive stability.

Lajong have been playing with a 4-1-3-2 formation. It is a system designed to create overloads in the midfield and attack through the middle. But it leaves the team highly depleted in the wide areas. The front two playing wide and the fullbacks charging up field are expected to compensate for that.

For most of the teams in the SPL this is not a bad system since many of them lack defensive discipline as was evident in the second leg defeat of Malki to Lajong. But against a team like Langsning and even Rangdajied United, both of who like to attack from the wide areas supported by a strong defence, it is a very risky system. Langsning conceded the midfield but created a strong screen in the middle, which made it impossible for Lajong to play through balls.

At the same time the front three did not retract as they do otherwise. They stayed upfront and engaged the back four, making sure that the fullbacks don’t get the opportunity to support the attack from wide areas. So by attacking the opposition’s defender they relieved the pressure on their own defence.

Donlad Diengdoh played a very important role in this. As a result, Lajong had more of the ball in the midfield but couldn’t do much with it. At the same time Langsning’s wingers got ample opportunity to make their own runs as the wide areas were completely free. Milancy Khongstia’s runs created a lot of problems for Lajong.

Having a system is important but you must also have the players to execute it and this Langsning team has showed that they have the skill and tactical flexibility to adapt to different systems. There are so many good players in this team that it is very difficult to pick a few, but for me in this match Milancy, Kitboklang Pale, Kynsaibor Lhuid, Brolington Warlarpih and Frolicson Dkhar were very good.

Milancy is the all-action fullback who has immense energy to defend as well as attack. I feel he can perform any role on the pitch except maybe goalkeeper, only because of his height (sorry!).

Kynsai hasn’t got a lot of game time but whenever he got a chance he has not let his team down. He has good skills and has a penchant for scoring long-range goals. Even in this match he almost got a goal from a strike from distance. But at the same time, he does miss quite a few sitters; Thursday’s miss from close range being a case in point.

Kitbok, with his magic feet, is the best attacking player in this league. He is tenacious, has great speed and a very sharp footballing mind. The pass he played which would have resulted in a goal had a team mate anticipated it was a touch of genius. I like the fact that we are lucky to witness him play in the SPL, but, with all due respect, he is too good for this level. He should have moved out by now and I hope he does soon. For me, the only way he can stay with Langsning is for them to win the Second Division League and qualify for the I-League.

Frolicson has also been highly instrumental in Langsning’s success till now. He has made some spectacular saves during the season. In Thursday’s match he made a very smart save to prevent Sheen Sohktung from scoring. The fact that he is very good with his feet, not only for stopping the ball but also for playing it, provides another dimension to the team. For me he can be stronger under challenges but I am sure he will get better as he gets more experience.

But the one player who is the heart of this team is their captain, Brolington. He is a true leader of the team who leads by example. He may not have an imposing stature but his impact on the game is immense. He wins his headers, is in the right position almost every time and has the pace to catch the opposition’s attackers.

Thursday was no different and he led the defence very well to earn another clean sheet for the team. Everyone performed brilliantly but these are the ones that stood out for me.

However, it would be foolish for Langsning to become complacent with this performance. Now they are in the knockout stages, which means even one mistake could spoil the entire season’s hard work.

For Lajong, though, it is a time for introspection. Their first I-League match is just over a week away and this is not a good way to prepare for it. Most probably they will face Rangdajied United in the 2nd Qualifier. Without any disrespect to a team of Malki’s stature, I think they will find it very difficult to defeat Rangdajied because the system they use, of the matches I have watched till now, grossly underutilises their most skillful player, Primrose Lamat. They need to get him more on the ball if they are to have any chance of reaching the Final.

Rangdajied, on the other hand, will not be any easy team for Lajong. If Rangdajied play with the same intensity they did against Langsning they may even trouble the defending champions should they make the final. Incidentally, Langsning have not been able to defeat Rangdajied this season.

Whatever happens in the SPL I hope that when the I-League starts we can all get behind Lajong. They are a team that represent the hope of our state and have good local talents who have the chance to shine at the highest stage. A decision taken for non-footballing reasons has meant that, more than any other season, this is the season that they will need our most fervent support. For the time being they are the only representatives of Meghalaya in the I-League and we must encourage them so that they remain there waiting for teams like Langsning to join them. And then we will have the Shillong derby: a proper one this time.

(TSR photo)

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