Shillong, Feb 13: Shillong Lajong will hope for a hat-trick of wins when they take on East Bengal in Kolkata tomorrow. Kick-off is at 5PM.
Lajong, down in the dumps of the relegation zone for much of the season, have seen a real lift of late in their performance, with back-to-back victories over Minerva Punjab (1-0, away, 25th January) and Churchill Brothers (3-2, home, 5th February) and will look to complete a rare treble at East Bengal. Lajong have only twice before won three I-League games in a row, the last time coming in 2016-17.
SLFC actually have a terrible record of playing at East Bengal, though, with just one win (in 2012-13) out of eight I-League games there.
Despite the double victory the Reds remain at the bottom of the standings with 10 points. The Kolkatans have won their last three matches and are in fourth place with 28 points. However, they have played fewer games than any other team in the league, so are still in contention for this season’s title.
When the two sides met in the first leg on 1st November Jobby Justin scored a brace in East Bengal’s 3-1 victory in Shillong. As the third-highest scorer overall and the top Indian scorer of 2018-19 with eight goals, Justin is the obvious threat to Lajong’s hopes of another victory.
Enrique Esqueda, who scored a brace in EB’s 2-1 win over NEROCA last week, and Jaime Santos are other potential gamechangers for the hosts.
East Bengal were scheduled to play at Real Kashmir on the 10th February, but this match had to be postponed due to terrible weather in Srinagar.
Lajong, for their part, may be on the up, but are still shaky at times. They pulled out an impressive 2-0 lead over title contenders Churchill in the last game only to give it up in the second half. A late Naorem Mahesh Singh goal then saw them win 3-2. They’ll need more of that grit and resilience against East Bengal, who have hardly put a foot wrong of late, but they’ll also need to be tighter in defence.
(TSR file photo)