Shillong Lajong FC went down fighting to DSK Shivajians 1-2 in an enthralling and keenly fought contest at the JN Stadium, Shillong, today evening.
Despite pressing the visitors intensely in the second half the Lajong unit could not find another goal against a resolute defence, but the Reds refused to give up the fight until the final whistle. Lajong were in the hunt for their fifth consecutive home victory, but Shivajians had it better on the day.
The entertaining contest saw Shivajians score on either side of Aser Dipanda Dicka’s 33rd minute strike. Sanju Pradhan (16th minute) and Hero of the Match Shane McFaul (44th) were the goal scorers for the Pune-based club.
Out of the blocks quickly, Isaac stole the ball away in seventh minute and passed to Rupert Nongrum on the right flank. Swerving the ball back to Isaac, the No. 13 chipped it in, but Yuta Kinowaki’s attempt from the edge of the box just went wide.
Shivajians were also hungry to get their first away goal of the season and they almost did it a couple of minutes earlier when Pradhan smashed the ball into the outside part of the net, though Vishal Kaith had the ball covered anyway.
Pradhan made good on this first attempt when, in the 16th minute, he gathered the ball just outside the box and crossed for H Narzary, but Samuel Shadap intercepted and headed the ball away. Unfortunately for the Reds, that header went straight back to Pradhan, who placed the ball neatly past Vishal.
This was the first time in 2016-17 that Shillong Lajong found themselves trailing in a home match and the hosts sought the equaliser immediately, backed by thousands of Lajong Faithfuls in the stadium.
A bicycle kick by Dicka could have resulted in the goal of the season, but it was a little wayward.
The Cameroonian striker, however, made up for this in the 33rd minute when Lajong briefly restored parity. A corner by Isaac went deep and Samuel Lalmuanpuia’s shot was blocked. Luckily for the Reds, the ball was still in play. Dicka had to negotiate a high bounce, but managed to pounce on the ball and saw it into the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
Then, when the half time whistle was near, the visitors managed to snatch what proved to be the winning goal when a corner was not cleared away by the Lajong defence, allowing the tall McFaul to slot it into the net for the Pune team.
The Shivajians were a changed side in the second half as they lost some of their aggression knowing that Lajong would go all out to equalise. Possession was largely with the home team and they were cheered on vociferously each and every time they pushed into the opposition’s half.
The 60th minute substitution of Bipin Singh for Samuela bolstered Lajong’s attacking capabilities on the left flank and the youngster provided a slew of delicious crosses into the box. One attempt late in the game deflected off a defender and required the sharp reflexes of Shivajians’ goalkeeper Subrata Paul to save the ball.
Apart from this, the Reds went agonisingly close to equalising when an Isaac free-kick was nudged by Sana, but his header struck the crossbar and stayed out in the 73rd minute. Soon after a neat pass found Yuta Kinowaki in space on the right, but Paul saved the day again for Shivajians.
To face up to this intense pressure on their citadel, the visitors pulled a fifth player into defence and it was not unusual to see them bring all of their players deep within their own half to deny Lajong and hold on to their narrow lead for the win.
Shillong Lajong remain in fourth position on 12 points, although the position will depend on a later I-League match, and they now travel away to take on East Bengal on Wednesday, February 15th.