Pune FC continued their winning ways after they won 2-1 against Shillong Lajong FC in the 13th round of the I-League at the JN Stadium Shillong on Saturday, in what will be probably be remembered as one of the most closely fought encounters played in the pine city of Shillong.
The visitors, who were on an impressive winning spree, which included comprehensive wins against Dempo SC and Prayag United.- seemed to have no intention of letting their streak end, as they scored on either side of the half-time break to take back home all the three points.
The loss for the home side though, meant that Pune FC registered its first ever win against Shillong Lajong, in 6 encounters. The loss ,painful as it was for the home supporters, brought a lot of positives though for the Reds. As many as four of their Youth Academy players were in the team line-up, with 2 coming on to play their part in the latter stages of the game-Jacob Lalrawngbawla and T H Bipin.
The game started at a brisk pace, with Shillong Lajong getting more chances on goal, even though it was the visitors who saw much more of the ball. Chances flew thick and fast for the Reds,with Rennedy Singh coming close on one occasion ,after his freekick saw the ball kiss the crossbar and going out of play. Sushil Kumar also had a bevy of chances, but some outstanding keeping by Abhra Mondal kept the home side at bay, denying them any chances of scoring. After a tedious and tense 30 minutes of play, the visitors finally went in front when Mizoram prodigy Jeje Lalpekhlua squeezed the ball in, after a mad goal mouth melee, to make it 1-0 in favour of Pune FC. The first half then came to a close on the same note, with the home side eking out some more goal-equalising chances.
The second half saw the two teams balancing out the ball possession and chances, with the Lizards looking real dangerous on the counter ,with Jeje linking up with James Moga, the Sudanese striker. Just when it seemed that Lajong would find the equaliser, Pune struck again, this time through yet another North-Eastern product,-Mizo striker Khanthang Paite heading the ball in from close range to double the visitor’s lead. 2 goals down and the Reds were left to chase the game with a little over half an hour remaining. A moment of brilliance from Govin Singh though, brought the game back to life-a 30 yard strike which blazed past Abhra to peg a goal back for the Reds,in the 60th minute. The crowd sprang back to their boisterous form- singing the Reds on, as the equaliser seemed destined to come at any minute. However,Lajong would consider themselves at the wrong side of luck, as their goal bound chances went a-begging time and again.Youngster TH Bipin came on for Rennedy , in the 71st minute, as Lajong pressed on for the hard-to-come equaliser.
A touch of drama unfolded at the fag end of the match,when Lajong keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte was sent packing by the referee for bringing down James Moga inside the box,on a one-on-one .Out came the red card, and Basant Singh took position in front of goal to face Moga.A fine save saw Basant kept out a third goal, as the match finally ended on a tedious incident, which would probably be the most remembered spectacle of the match.