The second leg of the much anticipated I-League North East Derby is finally here! An important fixture between the two North Eastern I-League teams, Shillong Lajong FC and Aizawl FC will be held at the JN Stadium Shillong on Friday at 7pm.
Shillong Lajong FC gaffer, Thangboi Singto expressed that his team has performed well in most matches. He also believes that all the youngsters have proved they can compete and perform at the top level of football. However the only concern remains the inability to get goals from the chances created and is a grave matter of concern for him and the Club.
The Reds are playing their sixth season in the I-League which makes them the only team from the North East to achieve such a big feat. Coach Thangboi Singto mentioned that there have been few positives in this season for the team.
“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”, added Singto.
The I-League action is back on Friday after the International Break where the Indian National Team played two FIFA World Cup Qualifying Matches against Iran and Turkmenistan respectively. Lajong lad Aibor Khongjee arrived this morning from the National camp and Thangboi said that the team will assess the player today evening during the training session and take the final call on his fitness level to be part of the derby tomorrow.
The coach also informed that the team has made full use of the break and worked on several areas which needed improvement.
Lajong has played several matches without their key foreign players. Penn Orji is the only foreign player who has started in every match. Japanese defender Yusuke Yamagata has been out of the squad due to injury. Fabio and Uilliams have also had their share of problems with injuries this season and thus the team lacked the attacking prowess upfront.
“Injuries have been putting a break on the players’ performance this season. Hopefully we will have all players available for selection for the Derby match so that we can field our best squad possible”, explained Singto.
“The break has been good for us and gave us a chance to work on many aspects to improve the team’s performance. The players who have been injured got some rest too during the break and have shown signs of recovery.”
As Lajong goes into Friday’s fixture the team aims to secure full points and better their position in the I-League standings. Looking at the points table of the league this season, the competition is pretty close between the teams. A good result for Lajong on Friday will see them rise significantly in the standings but from here on the team has to maintain its consistency as only four games are left to play after the match against Aizawl FC.
“Tomorrow is the day for us. The strikers need to deliver and others need to chip in as well to help the team with goals as goals will help us collect full points”, concluded Singto.
Meanwhile, Aizawl FC is having a decent campaign in their debut season of the I-League. After their recent 2-1 win against Mohun Bagan at home, the team from Mizoram are in high spirits and certainly have a good mood in the camp. AFC also were the team this season to end Mohun Bagan’s unbeaten run.
Joel Sunday and Lalchhawnkima provided the goals which gave their fans a reason to celebrate as the win helped them rise to fifth in the table with 12 points. They have also been very dangerous in front of goal and scored as many as 12 goals so far. The boys from Mizoram will be a confident side on Friday.
Even Coach Thangboi Singto pointed out that Aizawl FC play good attacking football and credited Jahar Das for doing a good job with the team even though he joined them half way.
Lajong will look to make the most of home advantage and play an entertaining 90 minutes of football. Thangboi’s troops are eager to benefit from the opportunity provided to them on Friday and secure three points in order to avoid the drop and move up to a safety position.
The North East Derby on Friday promises to be one of the biggest nights of Indian Football with fans from Meghalaya and Mizoram filling the JN Stadium at 7pm on Friday.