Mumbai FC failed to capitalize on their early lead and move out of the relegation zone, as Lajong ex-skipper Aibor Khongjee equalized in the 80th minute to restore parity in the game, which ended 1-1. Pradeep Mohanraj had earlier scored in the 16th minute to give the visitors the lead.
Shillong Lajong went into the match with the motive of getting three points, and after having defeated another Mumbai team, Mahindra United, a few days ago, the scene was set for a classic encounter.
Mumbai FC, on the other hand, had their own problems. Key Strikers Abhishek yadav, Alex Ambrose and Kayne Vincent were unavailable for the match due to various reasons. With four first team players ruled out, Khalid Jamil was on the backfoot.
Surprisingly, Mumbai FC, who are 13th in the league, took the lead in the 16th minute after a classic cross from Subhas Chakrabarty from the right saw young striker Pradeep Mohanraj score a good header to make it 1-0 for the visitors. The stand-in striker did a good job to head the ball past the goalkeeper who had come off his line to clear the cross down by a goal, the home side pulled up their socks and started playing better. Nigerians Daniel and Kelechi combined well and looked threatening, but the Mumbai FC midfield, led by Noel Wilson, was doing a good job to restrict the home side.
Lajong’s Asian recruit Anil Gurung showed his class in the 37th minute when he let off a wonderful strike which forced the Mumbai FC goalkeeper into an equally good save to keep the score 1-0.
The second half started with home side winning possession and building their attacks from the back. James Giblee was working hard, and his long balls to Tuboi were a major concern for theMumbai FC backline.
Experienced midfielder Noel Wilson was playing an exceptional role in the Mumbai midfield to keep Lajong from scoring, but the veteran was shown the yellow card in the 53rd minute due to a reckless challenge.
What happened in the 70th minute though, was a story on how a hero becomes a villain. Mumbai FC’s goal scorer Pradeep was given marching orders by the referee after his challenge on James prompted the official to hand him his second yellow card.
Lajong looked to grab the bull by the horns as they were enjoying more spells of possession, but missed whatever chances came their way. The breakthrough finally came in the 80th minute, when a corner curled in by Nigerian Kelechi Okeye saw former East Bengal player Aibor Khongjee score from a header to equalize for the home team.
Lajong could have come out of the match with the full three points only if Tuboi or Kelechi would have tapped in a good grounded cross sent in by James Giblee, but it wasn’t to be.
Both teams shared the spoils, while Mumbai FC’s Noel Wilson was rewarded for his performance with the Man of the Match trophy.
Shillong Lajong – Aibor Khongjee (80′)
Mumbai FC – Pradeep Mohanraj (16′)