Shillong, Feb 1: Shillong Lajong crashed out of the Elite League (formerly the U-18 Youth League) final round after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Reliance Foundation Young Champs in Goa today.
Needing a win from their last Group B fixture in order to hope to progress to the quarterfinals and keep their hopes of defending their title alive, Lajong would’ve been hoping to take down the Reliance team, who had lost their previous two games 4-1 to Chennaiyin and 3-0 to Minerva Punjab, but that was not to be.
As it happens, even a victory wouldn’t have seen SLFC enter the last-eight as Minerva beat Chennaiyin 2-0 to take first place in the group with the team from Tamil Nadu in second. Chennaiyin had already confirmed their berth in the quarters after winning their opening two games, while Minerva needed a point to confirm their progress.
Sheer exhaustion was a contributing factor, coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet told TSR over the phone. He described the schedule as “gruesome” as Lajong had to play these three final round matches almost immediately after they came through the playoffs for a total of seven matches in 16 days.
“The competitiveness of the other sides was very high, yes, but I could see today that the boys just couldn’t run anymore after seven matches,” Lyngdoh Nongbet said. “If we didn’t have to go through the playoffs first, I think we would have made it to the quarterfinals.”
Parvaj Bhuiya was substituted out by Lajong only nine minutes into the match in place of Dajiedlang Wanshnong, which was a fortuitous move as Wanshnong went on to score Lajong’s only goal in the 41st minute.
His goal was sandwiched, however, by a Thoi Singh double as RFYC scored in the 29th and 58th minutes.
Without a win in the final round, Lajong ended with just one point and bottom of Group B.
Lajong: Muhammad Safique Ahmed, Freestar Kharbangar (C), Habymmutshuh Nongrum, Parvaj Bhuiya (sub Dajiedlang Wanshnong 9′), Kynsailang Khongsit, Kitboklang Khyriem, Batskhemlang Thangkhiew, Donboklang Lyngdoh (sub Baiaikara Swer 46′), Apborlang Kurbah (sub Denzil Gorby Warjri 37′), Aman Ahlawat (sub Remark Kharmalki 61′), C Vanlalhriata (GK)
(Photo contributed by Shillong Lajong FC)