Shillong Lajong emerged victorious in the North East Derby after coming back from behind to beat the visiting Aizawl FC side. Joel Sunday opened the scoring for the visitors but Fabio found two quick goals to give Lajong the lead after which Samuel Lalmuanpuia put the game behind Aizawl’s reach with a brilliant curling shot to give the hosts the two goal cushion.
The match began very brightly and on a good note for the visiting side as they won their first corner in the first minute itself. As the match went into the 2nd minute the ball was put in to which no player could meet with a touch and the follow up fell to Joel Sunday who did not miss his shot from roughly a yard outside the open goal. The dream start was a pleasing sight for the visiting fans who turned out in great numbers to support their team. The moment though was short lived when in the 17th minute a rebound from a strong effort from Penn Orji found the the Brazilian striker Fabio Pena inside the box, who did not miss to head the ball home. The equaliser was much needed after the visitors have just begun to get their stronghold on the game’s proceedings.
As the home fans were rejoicing the first goal , Penn Orji got the ball back from the restart and ran at the Aizawl defense, he then pulled off a brilliant ground pass to split the visitor’s backline and found Fabio Pena’s marauding run. The Brazilian was one on one with the goalkeeper and then slot the ball coolly past Aizawl FC’s custodian’s legs to finish at the bottom corner on the 18th minute. The home crowd’s vociferous nature went up a few degrees as The Brazilian magician became a hero within a space of two minutes. The match settled down pretty well for the home side after the second goal as they kept on pressing hard, capitalising on the visitor’s now nervy and shaky defense.
The Mizoram outfit though did not rest their laurels as they came back fighting for their equaliser as the match went into the second half hour with high intensity football being displayed. The home side had their fair share of chances and just when they were looking to sit back and hold the lead till the break, Samuel Lalmuanpuia had other ideas.
A breakaway from the home side found numerous passes outside the box fall into the youngster’s feet and the under-18 player curled in probably the best goal of the match from just a few yards outside the box. The Lajong academy starlet scoring his first goal for the senior team in the Hero-I-League did not look a tad nervous as he confidently placed his shot right at the top corner in the 38th minute giving Aizawl keeper Lalawmpuia no chance whatsoever.
The match was a close encounter in the first half but Lajong’s third goal through Samuel seemed to have destroyed the visitor’s hopes of winning the North East derby. The matched went into the break with the Lajong coach Thangboi Singto in all smiles.
The second half began with Lajong having been instructed to keep the goals coming. The Reds tried their level best to get more goals on the scoresheet but their efforts were denied well by the Aizawl defense. The visitors themselves had a sketchy match having turned on the gases and then turned them off right when Lajong were beginning to feel the pressure. The small bit of pressure from the visitors were outperformed by a formidable display from Lajong’s goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. Vishal used his legs to deny a close range effort to parry the ball away to a corner in the 63rd minute. He then made sure nothing came in between the sticks as he again came down to save away Joel Sunday’s goalbound effort in the 68th minute.
Joel Sunday seemed to be Aizawl FC’s only performing player upfront and all the outlets led to him. He was their best performer for the side but his displays went in vain as the visiting side could not find any further goals as the scoreline remained unchanged in the second half. This was a brilliant display by Lajong’s makeshift back four having lost club captain Aibor Khongjee to an injury he picked up during his national duties. With Sana Singh not fit to start and Yusuke Yamagata there was much speculation of Lajong’s abilities to contain Jahar Das’ free scoring front three but this was not the case in Shillong as The Reds held their shape and their lead till the final whistle.
The game went into a frenzy towards the end as the Aizawl defense kept hurrying long balls towards their attacker who could not create any clear opportunities to atleast get a goal back in the match. The final whistle blew much to the home crowd’s content as Lajong pulled off a brilliant derby win amidst their relegation scares.
The Shillong side is now in 4th position with 14points and are now three points ahead of their visitors who have slipped yet to another defeat.