Shillong, Apr 13: Shillong Lajong FC finished their I-League 2023-24 campaign in defeat, losing 3-2 to runners-up Sreenidi Deccan FC in Hyderabad today.

With four losses in a row, Lajong concluded their season in eighth place, somewhat disappointing after a strong start.

Making their first appearance in the league after they were relegated at the end of 2018-19, the Reds were unbeaten in their first eight fixtures. Perhaps too many of these were draws but they could take pride in that accomplishment, having never had such a long streak in nine previous I-League seasons.

Even in these last four games they impressed at times, including in defeat to champions Mohammedan Sporting last week, but couldn’t get the results to go their way.

Today, Sreenidi led 2-0 before Lajong upped their game in the second half, with Phrangki Buam (46′, 87′) netting both goals.

Coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet made two changes from the side that started against Mohammedan. He switched out Neithovilie Chalieu for Rajat Paul Lyngdoh in goal while Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait returned to take the place of Hamedamanbha Wahlang.

A win would have pushed Lajong up to at least seventh. Sixth place was also a possibility but only if Mohammedan defeated Delhi FC, which didn’t happen as the latter won 3-1.

Brazilian striker William Alves de Oliveira opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he shot home a cross from the right. The second goal in the 16th minute was also the result of a right wing cross; this time William flicked the ball back for Rosenberg Gabriel to find the net past a jungle of legs.

After remaining busy playing second fiddle in the first half, the visitors began the second session with a huge push as they pulled one back almost immediately after the restart. Phrangki used his good speed to weave through the defence to score with a grounder.

His second goal of the day was also a result of his fine run – this time he eluded a diving goalkeeper Aryan Niraj Lamba to silence the handful of home fans. Earlier, however, David Castaneda Munoz (84′) converted a penalty to widen the lead for Sreenidi.

Of the 24 matches played, SLFC amassed eight wins, seven draws and nine defeats to finish with 31 points. Although well short of their stated aim to finish in the Top 5, coming back to the I-League after a long gap was always going to be a challenge and the Reds acquitted themselves relatively well.

Shillong Lajong’s line-up today:

Rajat Paul Lyngdoh (GK), Ronney Kharbudon, Kynsailang Khongsit, Daniel Goncalves, Kenstar Kharshong, Damaitphang Lyngdoh, Phrangki Buam, Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait (sub Figo Syndai 82′), Renan Paulino de Souza, Marcos Genar Silva, Douglas Tardin

(Photo: I-League media)

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