Shillong Lajong began their Hero I-League campaign with a disappointing home defeat against local rivals Royal Wahingdoh in the Shillong Derby as the final score ended 1-2 in Wahingdoh’s favour.
The Reds started the match with no foreign player in their starting eleven as Lajong’s top scorer last season and only foreigner in their first eighteen, Cornell Glen, was kept on the bench. This also meant that the all Indian starting line up would be without their two experienced defenders, Minchol Son and captain Aiborlang Khongjee as the latter, is nursing an injury.
The hosts did not begin well as they surrendered possession and could not find their time on the ball. The Reds defended well and their resilience however paid off in the fifteenth minute when Royal Wahingdoh conceded a cheap free kick just a few yards outside the box. Free kick specialist Boithang Haokip stepped up to take the free kick and his curling shot nicked off Lalchawnkima and flew into the bottom corner leaving Wahingdoh custodian Nikhil Bernard with no chance as the ball missed everyone inside the box.
Lajong however sat back a little and invited pressure from Royal Wahingdoh. Royal Wahingdoh created a couple of chances and forced Lajong on the back foot. Wahingdoh winger Jakichand Singh almost found the equaliser for his side but his shot flew over the bar in the 20th minute. Wahingdoh kept pressing and forced Lajong goalkeeper Rehenesh TP off his line a couple of times and the hosts would have lost their lead had it not been for some brilliant saves pulled off by the hosts’ custodian.
Rehenesh however could do nothing to stop a scorching 35-yard shot from Liberian forward Bekay Bawar in the 43rd minute as Royal Wahingdoh levelled the score before half time. The Reds went into the break having lost their lead and with much to do for Lajong coach Thangboi Singto and his men.
The second half started with Lajong failing to get off the blocks immediately. In the 48th minute, Royal Wahingdoh winger Jakichand Singh made a run from the right flank and sent in a low cross after which Seityasen Singh took the opportunity to take the lead.
Royal Wahingdoh went ahead but the match was not over yet. Thangboi Singto brought in strikers Cornell Glen and Durga Boro into the game and the changes were eminent immediately. Glen posed a threat to the Wahingdoh defence after he came on and almost found the equaliser in the 68th minute. Glen had taken down the ball well and with only the goalkeeper to beat forced his shot wide. Just a few moments later Seiminlen Doungel was released by Glen’s backward through ball into the box and the former took a cute little chip which beat the Wahingdoh keeper but flew just wide off the post.
Royal Wahingdoh were definitely living dangerously in the final minutes as Lajong kept pressing harder and higher up the pitch right until the final whistle. The efforts however came to no avail as the visitors ran off with the three points as the match ended with the scores 1-2.
Lajong however would have been proud of their performance in the final thirty minutes of the game, giving them much confidence as they look to secure their first Hero I-League win in their next home game against Mumbai FC on 25th January at 4:30pm.