An exciting match with end-to-end action in the second half saw Shillong Lajong FC pull off a 2-1 victory over Minerva Punjab FC in the Hero I-League at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Tuesday evening.
This was Lajong’s second away win of the season and it came on the back of goals from Samuel Lalmuanpuia (28th minute) and Fabio Pena (45+2). Kareem Nurain scored Minerva’s goal via a penalty in the 35th minute. The final result mirrors Lajong’s 2-1 victory at home in the reverse fixture on 21st January.
The action began with both sides trying to get the measure of the other, which was especially difficult for the Reds, none of whom had played in the Punjab city before. Lajong midfielder Yuta Kinowaki was sublime in the midfield, maintaining the visiting team’s ground and delivering neat passes to the flanks in order to keep Lajong moving forward.
A run up the left by Bipin Singh saw Minerva on the defensive and the winger, who has been notable for his excellent display on the flanks, delivered a cross that allowed Samuela to head in his second goal of the season in under 30 minutes.
That lead was cancelled out soon after, however, when Vishal Kaith brought down Minerva’s Victor Amobi in the box and the goalie could do nothing to keep out Nurain’s shot from the spot.
Although the clock was ticking towards the lemon break, neither side looked ready to settle for a one-all scoreline and Bipin emerged as provider again in the dying seconds to deliver a fantastic cross from the left flank that was met by Fabio’s header, which speared the ball into the back of the net past the diving Minerva goalkeeper Arnab Das. Like Samuela, this was Fabio’s second goal of the season.
The visitors thus went into the break leading by a narrow margin, but the second half saw frantic action which could have yielded a goal for either side.
Some of the best action occurred after the 71st minute with the substitution of Fabio for Redeem Tlang. The young No. 19 hit the ground running, going narrowly wide from the edge of the box in the 74th minute before having a chip shot blocked by the body of Arnab Das as the latter came out of position to deny Lajong three minutes later.
I-League debutants Minerva, meanwhile, put up a strong fight and the visitors needed to draw on all of their fighting reserves to keep the hosts at bay.
In one such typical encounter in the 78th minute Lajong captain Nim Dorjee Tamang’s reflexive reaction was the only thing that stopped Minerva from getting the equaliser from close range, as Vishal was blindsided by a pack of players right in front of him.
For that fine effort plus much more, Nim was named Hero of the Match.
The victory moves Shillong Lajong back up to fourth position with 19 points thanks to this, their sixth win of the season so far. The Men in Red will next travel to Goa to face Churchill Brothers on 12th March at 4:30PM.