Shillong, Feb 22: This season’s I-League strugglers Shillong Lajong and Gokulam Kerala played out a 1-1 draw at the JN Stadium here today, which gives Lajong continued hope of avoiding relegation.

Marcus Joseph put the visitors into the lead in the 43rd minute, but SLFC equalised in the second half thanks to a penalty kick taken by Samuel Lalmuanpuia. Gokulam had to play the last 10 minutes or so with only 10 men on the pitch, but the hosts couldn’t make their advantage in numbers count.

Lajong now have 11 points with two games to go, while Gokulam have 14.

Alison Kharsyntiew made two changes to Lajong’s starting lineup, swapping out the injured goalkeeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa for Neithovilie Chalieu and Kynsailang Khongsit for Rakesh Pradhan.

The first four or five real chances all belonged to the Kerala side as they looked for their first victory on the road this season, but they were constantly frustrated.

Then, just when it looked like the first half would end in deadlock, Imran Khan fed a through ball to Felipe de Castro who cut the ball back for Joseph inside the box and the forward finished off the attack with a fine shot.

SLFC are used to trailing and, of late, they have become used to earning and converting penalty kicks. For the third consecutive home game Lajong earned a penalty, this time after Naorem Mahesh Singh was brought down by Daniel Addo in the box in the 63rd minute. Lalmuanpuia, who came on as a substitute for Phrangki Buam at the start of the second half, converted neatly.

Lajong were right back in the game, at least when it came to the score line, but could not make any real attacking mark. De Castro was shown a second yellow in the 81st minute but, even then, Lajong could not push for the win.

This was only Lajong’s second draw in 18 games this season and it, crucially, keeps them in the fight to avoid the drop. They will now travel to Aizawl FC for a North East derby on 4th March.

(TSR photo)

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