Shillong, May 6: Shillong Lajong FC opened their account in the final round of the All India Football Federation’s Second Division League with an excellent 2-1 victory over United SC of Kolkata at the SSA Stadium here today.
All three goals came in the first half, Lajong scoring through Hardy Cliff Nongbri (33′) and Figo Syndai (45’+2) on either side of Sajib Mondal’s (38′) strike for United.
The two sides, both looking to get back into the I-League, had already met twice in the group stage, with a draw in Shillong before Lajong lost in Kolkata. United had qualified for the final round as the top team in Group B, while Lajong made it through as the best second-placed club across the four groups.
This was also the first match played on the new artificial turf laid at the Shillong Sports Association Stadium at First Ground, which has taken years to see the light of day.
Lajong coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet made just the one change from the 5-0 victory against East Bengal reserves in the last group fixture, bringing in Figo Syndai for Amon Lepcha.
United will remember this match for the numerous chances that they had but almost none of them were on target. The young Lajong players, on the other hand, controlled the game for much of the time, even if their central defence was a little too open on occasion.
The first two goals were both scored via free-kicks.
Nongbri’s took a slight deflection off the United wall but it was perfectly placed and left the visitors’ goalkeeper Sourav Samanta rooted to the spot.
The lead lasted just five minutes, however, as Mondal scored from an even better set-piece. While Nongbri’s was close to the penalty arc, Mondal’s was on the left edge but he placed the kick perfectly past SLFC keeper Bishal Lama.
It then looked like the first half would end all square before Syndai (pictured centre celebrating the goal) put the hosts in front once again. That goal came off a Sangti Janai Shianglong through ball that appeared as though it was aimed at Everbrightson Mylliempdah but had too much power on it. Syndai, though, didn’t give up on it and got to the ball before Samanta could. His little dink trickled towards the upright but came off it and went across the goal line.
The second half saw United come out in force but they were far too wayward. Tarak Hembram was their star performer in the last 45 minutes and hit the woodwork once but was always taking advantage of the openings Lajong gave him to move into good positions. After a relatively quiet match, Lama then leapt into play to make three good saves for Lajong, including one right on the line to deny the opposition a point.
Lajong will now have five days before their next match, which will see them face Delhi FC on the road on 11th May.
Lajong’s squad today: Bishal Lama (GK), Henry Ford Nongneng, Ronney Wilson Kharbudon, Saveme Tariang, Everbrightson Mylliempdah (sub Babysunday Marngar 61′), Hardy Cliff Nongbri (sub Hamedamanbha Wahlang 70′), Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait, Wadajied Kynsai Ryngkhlem (sub Amon Lepcha 79′), Sangti Janai Shianglong, Atlanson Kharmaw, Figo Syndai