Football lovers across the North East Region are highly anticipating the second leg of the North East Derby in this season of the Hero I-League. For the first time, Aizawl FC will play in Lajong’s fortress knowing that the contest will not be an easy one.
The visitors are coming into this fixture after a 2-1 win over defending champions Mohun Bagan. The win helped them better their position in the league and climbed to the 5th position in the I-League standings with 12 points.
Although Aizawl currently occupy the 5th place, other I-League teams such as Salgaocar FC, Mumbai FC and DSK Shivajians are also on 12 points with goal difference playing the only factor of separation among these teams and are placed on the 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively.
Lajong FC meanwhile are on 11 points, with one match in hand and only a point separating them from their rivals Aizawl FC and anything can happen on Friday when these two teams lock horns in the crucial North East Derby. The team that can deliver good attacking football and convert their chances into goals will be the one to emerge victorious.
Hence, The Reds of Shillong are aiming for full points, as they get ready to host Aizawl FC on Friday at 7pm. A win will benefit the team immensely in terms of their position in the league, avoid the danger zone and ultimately finish the season on a good note.
On speaking to the Lajong gaffer about the team’s display of football in the I-League this season, he opened up and explained his version of the story in an exclusive interview.
He expressed his views on the matches played by Lajong thus far and said,” I believe we have performed well in most matches. All the youngsters have proved that they can compete and perform at this level. Our inabilities to get goals from the chances we create have been a concern.”
Shillong Lajong FC is playing their sixth season in the I-League which makes them the only team from the North East to achieve such a big feat. There have been few positives in this season for the team and Singto explained.
“Positives are the youngsters graduating and proving that they are good enough for the League. Also the team spirit is good that will help us fight and do better in remaining 5 matches.”
Many youngsters from the Lajong Academy have featured in Thangboi’s regular starting eleven and the team’s bench strength is also dominated by the young ones. Thangboi has mentioned time and again that these young boys are in the team for a reason and should make full use of the opportunity given to them to play in the top league of Indian Football.
On asking Singto if they have handled the pressure of I-League well and whether they have performed to his expectations, he said “Most of them have done well. I’m happy of their progress and contributions. We need to keep working on them on all aspects to make them better.”
Well the current I-League season has been a tough competition even though it consists of only 9 teams as compared to previous seasons. Also if one looks closely at the points tally of the I-League table the teams are not far from each other and anything can happen as the season nears to a closing end. Thangboi also feels that the current season is tougher than the last due to lesser teams and shorter duration.
Lajong played their last I-League match against Salgaocar FC in Goa, a match which was fully dominated by Lajong but were not able to convert their chances into goals. Thus the team succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Goans, a loss that pinched Lajong hard as the team faced another drop in the points table.
As the International break kicked off team India departed for Iran to play their FIFA World Cup Preliminary joint qualification in Tehran while Lajong started working on improving their weak areas with daily practice sessions in Shillong.
“Injuries have been putting a break on performing better. Hopefully we will have all players available for selection for the Derby match so that we can field our best squad possible”, added the Lajong head coach.
He further said, ”Fabio and Uilliams have given us only 3 goals together. They need to score more goals to help the team. Also we need others to chip in and help the team with goals. A collective effort leading to more goals is the aim.”
The break will end for Lajong on the 31st March as the second leg of the I-League campaign kicks off on the 1st April. The home team will start with hosting the North East derby in Shillong at the JN Stadium with the kick off time at 7pm. Aizawl FC will be arriving in Shillong on late Tuesday evening.
The match against Aizawl is considered to be an important one for Lajong and Coach Thangboi Singto also said in his closing statements that, “Our home match vs AFC will be the most important fixture for us. We need to get 3 points.”
“Overall, it has been disappointing with the results. We need to step up as a team, do well and bring good results for all. That’s what we intend to do in the remaining matches.
We appreciate the patience shown by all but it’s high time that we produce results that will bring a smile to everyone’s face. I also request the Lajong Faithfuls to keep faith in us. We will deliver”, he concluded.