Shillong, Nov 14: Shillong Lajong FC made it three draws in a row in I-League 2023-24 with a 2-2 result against Sreenidi Deccan at First Ground, Polo, here today.
It started out badly for the hosts as they went behind in the seventh minute to Sreenidi Deccan’s Rosenberg Gabriel but Lajong came back through Ronney Kharbudon (27′) and took the lead via Takuto Miki (34′) only to concede an equaliser in the 63rd minute to Gabriel.
The Hyderabad-based Sreenidi were runners-up last season and should be strong contenders for this one, so Lajong could perhaps be content with a point. However, with the club targeting a top half finish they’ll need to beat stronger teams at home, so to come away with only a draw is a little disappointing. It also leaves SLFC still searching for their first win of the season, after drawing 1-1 with both Mohammedan Sporting and NEROCA earlier this month.
In front of a good-sized crowd, Lajong went behind after Gabriel received a through ball that he lobbed over goalkeeper Neithovilie Chalieu. This came a minute or two after the visitors had a goal disallowed for offside.
There was hope of an equaliser in the 15th minute when Sreenidi made a pig’s breakfast of an attempt to clear the ball, first by a defender and then the goalkeeper. However, Lajong’s Japanese forward Takuto couldn’t score from the tight angle and failed to pull off a pass to an open team mate.
The hosts really struggled to make much of an impact, that is until Sangti Janai Shianglong sent a high bounce ball far into the crowd, which seemed to spur the crowd and the home players on. The equaliser wasn’t far away as Ronney scored with a powerful header; by doing so he became the first domestic player to get on the scoresheet for Lajong this season.
At the other end, Ronney was soon guilty of conceding a free-kick right in the penalty arc but the set-piece was slammed into the defensive wall.
Lajong then bagged the lead in the 34th minute when Takuto took a low shot that skirted the turf, clipped the upright and went in.
After a positive comeback in the first half, the Reds were a little flat in the second 45 minutes and the visitors had the bulk of the chances.
A little under half an hour since the previous goal, Gabriel got his brace by tapping in a cross right in front of the goal mouth.
Lajong now stay at home as they are set to welcome another big team in the form of Gokulam Kerala, who are leading the standings at the moment with 10 points from four games. Lajong stay 10th and Sreenidi are third with 3 and 7 points respectively. The Lajong-Gokulam match will take place on Sunday at 2PM at First Ground.
Shillong Lajong’s squad today:
Neithovilie Chalieu (GK), Ronney Kharbudon, Kynsailang Khongsit, Daniel Goncalves, Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri, Sangti Janai Shianglong (sub Damaitphang Lyngdoh 69′), Hardy Cliff Nongbri (sub Abdou Karim Samb 83′), Phrangki Buam (sub Kynsaibor Lhuid 69′), Renan Paulino de Souza, Figo Syndai (sub Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait 59′), Takuto Miki (sub Shano Tariang 83′)