Shillong, Feb 4: Shillong Lajong will host Churchill Brothers on Tuesday at the JN Stadium in what will be the 82nd match of I-League 2018-19. Kick-off will be at 5PM.
Lajong received a huge fillip after their 1-0 win at Minerva Punjab a day before Republic Day with Naorem Mahesh Singh scoring the winner, but they will be up against much stronger opposition tomorrow.
The Reds have beaten Churchill twice in last two years when they met in Shillong, but this is a very different visiting side. The Goans were sixth in 2016-17 and second from bottom in 2017-18, but this time they are challenging for the I-League title, which they have won twice before.
When the two sides met in Goa earlier in the season, Willis Plaza scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory and he will be the go-to man again for Churchill. With 16 goals to his name, Plaza is the lead scorer in I-League 2018-19.
But if Churchill are formidable opponents, Lajong look like being on the uptick of late. Real Kashmir, who are tied on 29 points with Churchill just behind Chennai City’s 30, were only able to win 1-0 on 19th January at SLFC and then came Lajong’s first victory since October against Minerva. This was their first away win and also the first time that Lajong have kept a clean sheet this season and, unsurprisingly, goalkeeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa was named man-of-the-match in both of these games.
“I am very happy with the three points we got against Minerva Punjab and the boys deserved it,” Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew was quoted as saying by the club. “But a lot of work needs to be done … The energy and confidence the boys possess currently is really impressive and I hope they continue to keep the positive momentum going.”
With a meagre total of seven points, Lajong are five off Gokulam Kerala with just six matches to go. Time is running out if SLFC want to get out of the relegation zone.
Hopefully the win in the last game encourages more spectators to come out on Tuesday. Against Real Kashmir there were fewer than 1,500 fans at the JN Stadium, the lowest TSR has ever seen at a Lajong I-League match.
(TSR file photo)