Shillong, Dec 23: Shillong Lajong’s worst ever I-League got no better today as the Reds were beaten 2-0 by Mohun Bagan in Kolkata.
Yuta Kinowaki, who played for Lajong in 2016-17, scored early in the second half, with Henry Kisekka adding another more fortuitous goal later on.
This was the first time this season that Bagan have won in their home town, while it marks Lajong’s seventh defeat in nine games. They’ve now lost all five of their away matches this season.
There were three changes made by Alison Kharsyntiew. Out went Neithovilie Chalieu, Novin Gurung and Sheen Sohktung and in came Phurba Tempa Lachenpa, Kynsailang Khongsit and Kitboklang Pale.
Samuel Lalmuanpuia, meanwhile, made his 50th I-League appearance for SLFC.
The hosts were the more attacking in the first half, but some good defending and sharp blocks from Lachenpa ensured that Lajong frustrated Bagan and at half time it was still goalless.
Azhar Mallick was blocked by Kenstar Kharshong’s knee in less than four minutes after kick-off, while Aser Dipanda (another ex-Lajong player) was denied in the 16th by Lachenpa’s outstretched leg.
Lachenpa, who was making only his second appearance between the sticks this I-League season, continued his good work with a diving save to deny Omar Elhusseiny in the 20th minute, with the resulting corner kick also neatly gathered up by the goalkeeper.
A couple of minutes later the visitors got their only shot on target in the first half when Samuel Lyngdoh Kynshi sent one straight to Bagan’s goalie Sankar Roy.
Lajong then suffered a blow when Rakesh Pradhan, a consistent performer for SLFC, looked like he had some problems with his right knee. He continued for a few more minutes before having to be stretchered off the pitch. Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri took his place around the half-hour mark.
The Mariners really needed to win a home game and they took the lead through Kinowaki’s goal. It came about in the 48th minute after a cross was headed by Kynshi into the path of Kinowaki, who curled it delightfully past Lachenpa.
A good combination by Pale and Lalmuanpuia five minutes later resulted in Kynshi taking a shot from inside the box that was palmed away by Roy. Pale’s rebound then crashed into a defender and Bagan held onto their slim lead.
They could breathe a little easier on the hour with a rather comical goal.
With Lajong pressing higher in search of the equaliser their defence became more vulnerable and a Bagan long ball saw Lachenpa and Aiban Dohling collide. The ball came off Dohling’s head and was fed by another Kolkata player to Dipanda, who completely miscued his left-footer. Kharshong, however, was sliding in and pushed the ball towards goal. Khongsit twice tried to clear the ball, but on both occasions it hit Kisekka’s boot and went in off the second one.
This was the first time since Lajong lost 1-0 at Indian Arrows that they weren’t able to score a goal and the fans are still waiting for the day when SLFC manage to keep a clean sheet. Lajong will take on top club Chennai City on 29th December in Coimbatore for their final match of 2018.
(Photo contributed by Shillong Lajong FC)