Shillong, Feb 5: Shillong Lajong resisted intense pressure from Churchill Brothers to register a 3-2 victory in their I-League match at the JN Stadium here today.
Despite being a little shaky in defence, Lajong demonstrated that they are a much-improved side as they picked up their second consecutive victory, all the more impressive as it came against a title contending side.
Samuel Lyngdoh Kynshi bagged the opening goal in the 36th minute – the first time Lajong have scored a first half goal in seven matches – by trapping a Naorem Mahesh Singh pass and curling the ball past three defenders. Churchill goalkeeper James Kithan got a hand on the ball, but it burst through him and into the net.
Then, on the edge of half time, Phrangki Buam was pushed from behind in the box. A better penalty kick could not have come off Lyngdoh Kynshi’s boot, with the ball going high into the top of the net.
Willis Plaza then reduced the margin in the 53rd minute by volleying in a cross and in the 70th Anthony Wolfe headed in a long ball. Both goals arose after poor marking by Lajong defenders.
Against the run of play man-of-the-match Naorem pulled off a blinding shot from the edge of the box to restore Lajong’s lead in the 83rd minute.
The hosts made three changes from the starting lineup that won 1-0 at Minerva Punjab in their last outing. Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Lalawmpuia Hnamte and Kynsailang Khongsit were benched (the latter had just taken part in the Elite League in Goa where Lajong were knocked out), while Naorem, Lyngdoh Kynshi and Rakesh Pradhan were brought in. This was Pradhan’s first game after missing the last five through injury.
SLFC made their attacking intentions known right from the first whistle, with Kitboklang Pale and Naorem looking particularly dangerous. However, the first real chance came in the 11th minute when Aiban Dohling headed a corner towards goal. Pradhan provided a further flick, but Kithan dived to save the ball.
With Lajong continuing to make forays forward Churchill pulled their Meghalaya midfielder Chesterpaul Lyngdoh halfway through the first 45 minutes in place of forward Wolfe as the visitors looked to take the fight to the Reds.
Wolfe was expected to partner with Plaza, but the latter hardly saw the ball in the first half. Indeed, he inadvertently turned Lajong defender when Wolfe had a powerful shot on target which cannoned into his team mate in the 39th minute.
That came just after the opening goal and soon after Pale would be blocked by Kithan.
A silly foul in the box then saw the hosts open up a two-goal lead going into the lemon break, but the Goans started aggressively at the start of the second half.
Poor marking led to Plaza being uncontested in scoring his 17th goal of the season, and that continued as Churchill threw everything forward to find the equaliser, which would then lead to Wolfe’s goal.
Naorem appeared a little indecisive at times during the game and that proved to be the case in the run-up to his goal. On too many occasions he proved hesitant when in a scoring position, not knowing whether to shoot or pass, which allowed him to be smothered by defenders, but when it came to his goal he pulled the trigger just in the nick of time, stunning the visiting side.
Lajong now have 10 points, still at the bottom of the standings, but now two points behind Gokulam Kerala. Churchill, meanwhile, will be ruing what could have been a better performance as the season approaches the close.
Lajong will now travel to East Bengal to face them on 14th February, while Churchill return to Goa to welcome Mohun Bagan on 9th February.
Lajong: Phurba Tempa Lachenpa (GK), Rakesh Pradhan, Lalrohlua, Nabin Rabha, Kitboklang Pale (sub Sheen Sohktung 90′), Samuel Lyngdoh Kynshi (sub Kynsailang Khongsit 81′), Naorem Mahesh Singh, Phrangki Buam (sub Samuel Lalmuanpuia 46′), Novin Gurung, Aiban Dohling (C), Kenstar Kharshong
Churchill: James Kithan (GK), Rowilson Rodrigues, Wayne Vaz, Hussein Eldor, Willis Plaza, Dawda Ceesay (C), Nicholas Fernandes (sub Israil Gurung 77′), Richard Costa, Chesterpaul Lyngdoh (sub Anthony Wolfe 23′), Cavin Lobo (sub Nenad Novakovic 53′), Jovel Martins