Shillong Lajong FC, added yet another trophy in their already bursting cabinet with a “nerve-racking” ,yet stupendous, 3-2 win over tournament favourites Wellington Phoenix to lift the North East Lajong Super Series 2012.
This was IT!The Mother of all victories, the zenith of all The Club’s most memorable moments, and for the thousands who thronged the Nehru Stadium ,it was sight like no other. To watch their local heroes stand toe to toe to their much fancied opponents, matching punch for punch, fighting their hearts out, and in the process ,recreating the magic which had been associated with Shillong Lajong Football Club.
For all the hype that Wellington Phoenix had generated in the League round from its two ”cakewalk” victories over Shillong Lajong FC and United Sikkim, the people of the town feared the worst when the referee blew the kickoff whistle of the match. And their fears were well founded when the visiting side found the back of the net, with yet another Jeremy Brockie goal, coming from a 5th minute set piece. The Reds though knew , that there was a ray of hope somewhere, that all was not lost. For the saga had just begun, the battle yet to be won. And the shadow of the Man Friday rose yet again to rescue the team from the pits. A touch of complacency from the Wellington Phoenix side in the 27th minute was all it took for Friday Gbeneme, who had annihilated United Sikkim the other day, to snatch upon the loose ball and slot home the ball. The crowd erupted,as if the day had been won. And just 5 minutes later, a deafening, thunderous roar greeted Friday’s second goal-a peach of a volley past the keeper, with the home crowd up from their seats. Their fists pumped, their hearts beating, their eyes welled with tears of joy,as a sense of belief slowly settled within them. The fears now started to disappear, the ghosts of the past well and truly buried, as Wellington Phoenix tried to salvage their pride and reputation. Both teams went into the second half with the home side clinging on to their hard earned 2-1 lead.
The crowd was now restless, eager to see just how much would Shillong Lajong FC wound their dream spell and web around the Wellington team. The second half was a blur to many, as the quality of the game picked up, and took the shape of top, elitist football, at its very best. The true test of the team was now at hand, as the limits were stretched, as both teams slugged and battled for glory, to reach the final pinnacle, the final barrier.63 minutes into the match, Wellington Phoenix managed to pull one back through Paul Ifill, when he scored from the spot after a handball inside the box by Govin Singh.
Truly, this was not a match for the faint-hearted. And just when it seemed that the see-saw Epic would head into extra time, another familiar name etched his name in Shillong and the North-East Football lore forever. Boithang Haokip, the man with countless goals under his kitty, scored in what will probably be the most remembered, the most cherished goal at the Stadium, and one of the most talked about in recent times. After the ball was lobbed back into the area outside of the penalty box,it fell into Boithang’s path, who made no mistake in lining up his shot and firing a well calculated volley past the Wellington keeper,in the 84th minute.
Arms raised high, the crowd went into a frenzy, as they knew a Historic victory awaits their team.On the field, its Red and White brigade defended the goal line with their lives, as Wellington piled on wave after wave of attack, with a little over 4 minutes remaining.
The anxiety, the worry, and the pressure of the crowd and the team was released along with the referee’s final whistle ,as all was forgotten in the moment of victory.
The battle was won, the names forever to be remembered,and the match,close as it was,in the end belonged to One team.Indeed,in one moment of mesmerising magic ,Shillong Lajong had emerged victorious against Wellington Phoenix by 3 goals to 2,and the title of the “North East Lajong Super Series” Champions,with Friday Gbeneme winning the “Man of The Series” award for his 7 superb goals.