Shillong Lajong FC earned another win against East Bengal in the first leg encounter of the Hero Federation Cup 2016 here at the J.N.Stadium, Shillong. The Reds managed two goals past the Kolkata side even though the visitors did manage to pull one away goal back.
The home side were on the front foot right from the word go and did not look like they were under pressure at all. The visitors found themselves defending for most of the first half as Lajong kept mounting the pressure and the chances. The first real chance came in the 8th minute through a Bipin Singh corner which found the head of towering defender Sana Singh but the Manipuri defender just headed the ball towards the side netting. Lajong kept creating a lot of half chances in the eventful first half after another chance fell, this time to Isaac Vanmalsawma. Fabio Pena got the long ball in 12th minute and he headed it down for Isaac but the latter could not control his shot as it soared way over the cross bar.
The match went on with no real chance having fallen to the visitors after The Reds had most of the possession in the first half. The pressure was kept constant through waves and waves of attacking play which resulted in a corner just a few minutes after the half hour mark. Bipin Singh again stepped up to take a teasing corner that found Konsham Sana Singh at the near post and the Lajong defender this time did not miss to head the ball past East Bengal goalkeeper Rehenesh TP to give the home side the lead in the 33rd minute.
The goal gave Lajong more mettle to create a lot more chances as they approached half time. Another chance fell to Samuel after Adinga also known as Zodingliana had released a beautiful through ball, the young striker skipped past Rehenesh and was clear on goal but was brilliantly tackled by the goalkeeper, the rebound then fell to Robin Gurung who fired at goal only to be cleared away by Arnab Mondal. Fabio got one more chance on goal but this time he again headed over the bar. The Red and Gold brigade though managed to pull one back in the match just before half time. Ranti Martins who was left in the box managed to get a foot on a long ball played forward and the pass looped over to Do Dong Hyun who headed it into the net running in from the back in the 44th minute. The crucial away goal downed the spirits of the home side but Thangboi Singto would have been content with his side’s display as the referee blew for half time just shortly after the restart.
The belief in the Lajong dressing room did not fall short as they again began the second half as they started the first with some intricate play down the wings, creating a few chances for their forwards as the visitors could not really find their feet in the first few minutes. Isaac and Bipin Singh swapped places in the wings and that tactical change was very much responsible for what was to follow. Isaac Vanmalsawma who has been energetic all game managed to wriggle his way past a few defenders into the touchline and squared it back to Samuel. Samuela’s shot though was blocked but the rebound fell kindly for Brazilian striker Fabio Pena who did not miss to fire his side back into the lead from just a few yards off the goal line in the 62nd minute.
The away side then kept looking for the equaliser as Trevor Morgan would have been desperate to snatch atleast one more away goal to take to Kolkatta for the away fixture. On the 69th minute, Ranti Martins found himself on goal with just the keeper to beat but was brought down right on the edge of the box as a free kick was given much to the protests of the East Bengal players who thought they had won a penalty. The resultant free kick though was put wide by Dika Ralte. Lajong then sat back and defended well to stray away any chance that fell to the visitors. Their resilience though was somehow broken just few minutes before the 90th minute as Robin Gurung was sent off for what seemed like an elbow on Abhinash Ruidas. Ruidas was then stretchered off and sent to the emergency room for what looked like a serious injury.
There were no further scares for the home team as the match ended with the score line at 2-1 in favour of Shillong Lajong. The Red and Gold though managed to net one away goal that might prove crucial in the away fixture. The win gives the home side much of the added advantage going into the second leg which is to be played on 4th May, 2016 in Kolkata.