Shillong, Nov 1: A brace by Jobby Justin ensured East Bengal’s happiness as they beat Shillong Lajong 3-1 in their I-League meeting at the JN Stadium here today.
Man-of-the-match Justin made his brace in the first half before Rakesh Pradhan pulled one back for Lajong in the 71st minute. This happened to be Lajong’s 200th goal in the I-League. Justin’s substitute, Khangembam Singh then scored again for the visitors two minutes later.
This was only East Bengal’s third win in Shillong against Lajong in the I-League, but, now with two consecutive wins on the road, they are sure to have barrels of confidence going forward.
Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew chose to go with the same line-up that beat Aizawl FC 2-1 on Sunday, while Alejandro Menendez at East Bengal swapped out Yami Longvah in favour of Brandon Vanlalremdika.
It was the hosts who had the first scoring opportunity when Phrangki Buam was on the receiving end of a bump from behind outside the East Bengal box. Samuel Lalmuanpuia took the free-kick, but it went straight into the upright at the far post.
Lajong were nimble, quick-footed and more energetic, but they were vulnerable when challenging for headers and that showed itself in both first half goals.
In the 12th minute the Kolkata giants earned a free-kick of their own and this was taken by captain Lalrindika Ralte, with Justin rising above the SLFC defenders to head the ball into the net.
Lalrindika would take a shot of his own in the 17th minute after depriving Samuel Kynshi of the ball, but his shot went wide.
Kynshi was involved in some more action soon after, forcing East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar into making a good block in the 23rd minute, with the rebound being blazed over the bar by Buam.
Then, in the 40th minute, seconds after Lalmuanpuia delivered a tame attempt on goal, East Bengal attacked at the other end. Justin won a header, sending the ball in the direction of Enrique Esqueda and the Spaniard tapped it back for Justin to smash a volley past Lajong keeper Neithovilie Chalieu, who dived to his right in vain.
Early in the second half it was the hosts who again had the first chance as Lalmuanpuia was fouled outside the box. His excellent shot was blocked by Dagar. Kynshi had a go at the rebound, but he was denied as well.
Lalmuanpuia had another chance at a free-kick in the 62nd minute and tried to go for a bit more height this time, but the ball went just over the crossbar.
Other than these set-pieces Lajong had little in the way of chances as they failed to find an answer to the mighty visitors. Even Naorem Mahesh Singh, who was their goal-scoring hero against Aizawl was kept relatively subdued in this game and he was pulled off by Kharsyntiew in favour of Sheen Sohktung in the 65th minute.
Lajong would finally get a goal back, from another set-piece, when Lalmuanpuia delivered a corner that was headed home by Pradhan in the 71st minute.
That would have given the Reds some hope, but a bad pass two minutes later gifted the ball to Khangembam, who was unmarked, and he sailed into the box to score past Chalieu.
There were a few nervy moments for East Bengal towards the end of the game, but they had Lajong’s measure and held on for the final whistle in front, much to the delight of the significant number of their travelling fans.
Shillong Lajong: Rakesh Pradhan, Lalrohlua, Samuel Lalmuanpuia (C), Samuel Kynshi, Naorem Mahesh Singh (sub Sheen Sohktung, 65′), Phrangki Buam (sub Dameki Khongstia, 71′), Novin Gurung, Lalawmpuia Hnamte (sub Bonison Nongmaithem, 90+2), Aiban Dohling, Neithovilie Chalieu (GK), Kenstar Kharshong
East Bengal: Johnny Acosta, Borja Gomez Perez, Kamalpreet Singh, Enrique Esqueda, Laldanmawia Ralte (sub Kassim Aidara, 76′), Lalrindika Ralte (C), Jobby Justin (sub Khangembam Singh, 58′), Lalramchullova, Brandon Vanlalremdika (sub Yami Longvah, 68′), Rakshit Dagar (GK), Manoj Mohammad