Shillong Lajong FC, in its third stint in the I-League has begun the 2012-2013 season on a promising note, starting off with stupendous wins against heavyweights Mohun Bagan,and Prayag United ,with both coming on home turf.Here’s a look at all the home matches so far:
Round 1 SLFC vs Mohun Bagan : Scoreline 2-0
It was indeed a match which was worthy of the I-league opener –status of the most gigantic proportions. The script could not have been better written, and the end result was of course the icing on the cake for the home fans.
As the 6th October dawned upon the pine city, the city’s beloved football team, Shillong Lajong Football Club was preparing for what was probably one of their most tough I-League opening matches. Facing an uphill task against Kolkatan giants Mohun Bagan ,the Reds knew that they would have to play out of their skins to walk out of the encounter, unscathed and unbound.
The home crowd, on their part, knew that to rally behind their team and to take it past the finishing line, they would have to be one: they would have to be “Together and United”. And both the city and the Club kept their word , as they once again prepared to dance together to the tune of the “Beautiful” game.
The atmosphere was electric , the mood upbeat and the game poised, as the drummers slowly started to keep the near capacity stadium swaying away to their beats. On the ground, the game took off on a shaky and cautioned start, as both the teams jabbed and tested the waters. As the game wore on ,the shots started coming from both teams, as the crowd started to sense a deadlock-broker. But some excellent goal keeping from Lalthunmawia Ralte of Shillong Lajong and Arindam Bhattarcharya of Mohun Bagan ensured that the first half of the game would end goalless.
It was in the second half that Shillong Lajong started seeing more of the ball and created better chances as the missed opportunities went a-begging time and again for the home side. The Mariners too had a couple of near misses when key man Odafa Okolie and Tolgay Ozbey came close on a couple of occasions, with Mawia once again playing spoilsport to the Bagan forwards. The second half also saw Shillong lajong using all of their substitutions, with Eugeneson Lyngdoh coming off for Boithang Haokip, skipper Rennedy Singh coming off for Samuel Shadap and P C Lalhimthara replacing Sushil Singh.
As on previous occasions, just when the team needed him the most , Boithang Haokip made it count yet again , lifting the team and the thousands who had flocked to the stadium. It all transpired in the 63rd minute, when Haokip latched on to a rebound to blazed the ball past a hapless Arindam,and a bevy of Bagan defenders. The roar of the crowd was humongous, as they all rose up from their seats and one could swore that the noise could be heard from miles across the city . Haokip had did it again, recreating the magic which only he himself knew to conjure. Hearts racing ,the crowd watched with bated breath as Bagan started to inject new life into its play to find the equaliser. That brought the game to a new level as both teams started looking to counter each other’s attack. And just when it seemed that the match would be heading for a breath-taking, almost surreal climax,as the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark,-former Mohun Bagan player Lalramluaha put the game beyond doubt when he buried the ball deep into the Bagan net, turning one defender and curling his shot past the Bagan keeper. The crowd was almost delirious, for they knew that the day had been won, without a shadow of a doubt ,as Shillong lajong wrapped up their first I-League match with a huge morale boosting win against the Mariners.
Redemption was complete and the story re-written –It would be yet another day in Shillong that a Giant has been fallen by the Reds, and for tonight ,the city will be bathed and united in Red.
Round 2: SLFC vs Salgaocar: Scoreline 1-1
In their second home match, Shillong Lajong FC kept intact their unbeatable streak at their home fortress, when they played out a 1-1 draw, against Salgaocar SC at the JN Stadium Shillong . The second home game for the Reds turned out to be an intensely contested encounter against the Goan side, as both sides shared an equal number of chances in front of goal and had equal ball possession as well.
After a goalless and a subtle, but controlled first half, Salgaocar took the lead, with Angel converting from a free kick in the 52’. But the lead was short lived, as Ebi Sukore equalised for Shillong Lajong FC in the 53’ ,to gave the Reds that extra push for the winner.
However, a stout defensive performance from both the sides saw the teams sharing points, with nothing to weigh between the teams. At times it looked like either side could take the lead, but many chances went a begging, much to the disappointment of the packed J N Complex. All in all it was a match wherein one team matched the other in all departments of the game, and it was the home team with the last shot of the match when the referee decided to blow his final whistle, ensuring that both teams would take home a point apiece.
Round 3: SLFC vs Sporting Clube De Goa: Scoreline : 1-2
In what was a forgettable performance by the Reds, after having controlled much of the game, lost to Sporting Clube De Goa 1-2 , at the J N Stadium , in what was a low-scoring match.
The Reds, who had been in impressive form during the past two home matches ,took control of the game early on, and dominated most of the scoring chances and possession. However, the lead took a little later than the near-capacity crowd would have wanted, in the 45th minute, when Friday Gbeneme headed home from a superb cross from the flank. The brimming J N Stadium erupted wildly ,as the teams went inside their respective dressing rooms for the lemon break.
The second half saw Sporting Clube went into attacking mode as the Goan side pressed for the equaliser. And it did not take long for their efforts to be rewarded, when Kalou Ogba scored from close range from a Sporting corner to beat Lajong custodian Lalthunmawia Ralte.
Almost immediately Lajong made changes in quick succession,with P.C Lalhimthara, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Johny Menyongar all introduced in search for the winner. The winning goal did came ,but this time it was at the wrong end of the goal. After a mad goal mouth scramble, Dawson Fernandes, latched on to volley the ball past a hapless Mawia.
The stunned crowd,riled as they were ,egged on the Reds,as the search now turned to salvage the game. However all that did not materialize, as Sporting hung on to claim home all three points , thus handing Shillong Lajong their first home loss of the season.
Round 4: SLFC vs Prayag United SC: Scoreline : 3-2
In what was a mouth-watering 4th round I-league clash between Shillong Lajong FC and Prayag United, which was played at the J N Stadium in Shillong, the home team produced a spirited fightback to edged out the big spending Prayag side by a narrow 3-2 margin, thus burying the demons of defeat of the previous match at home.
Coming off an unbeatable streak, Prayag made early inroads into the Lajong defence ,when in form striker Ranti Martins scored off a beautiful header in the 4th minute to stun the boisterous home crowd, some of who were just settling in their seats. The early goal however seemed to bolstered the Reds into a different gear as they started creating more chances inside the Prayag box. 16 anxious minutes later, a scintillating through ball by Sushil Kumar saw Friday Gbeneme one on one with the Prayag custodian, and goalkeeping wizard Subrata Pal; The Lajong striker kept his calm to coolly lobbed the ball over Subrata and into the back of the net. Up in arms went the crowd as the match went back on an even poise and edge.
As the first half wore on , it seemed that either side would be capable of taking the lead. The lead came for the visiting side when a defensive howler by Wailadmi Passah ,who saw his tackle resulted in a handball inside the Lajong box. Ranti Martins then converted from the ensuing spot kick to add to his ever growing tally of League goals. The Reds, who yet again conceded from a set piece, calmly gathered themselves and like the proverbial “Calm before the Storm” , started to slowly but surely began constructing an outstanding and inspired comeback , to ensure that the Lajong Faithfuls would not go home disappointed.
The man with the magical touch, Friday Gbeneme lit the flame of resurgence, when he drew the teams level just before half-time with a 43rd minute penalty, which resulted due to a foul inside the Prayag box. The goal was just the spark that the Reds needed as they headed into the dressing room, with a belief that they could take home all the three points. The visiting side though, had an equally good chance of upsetting the home team and the home crowd, as both teams went into the break.
The Reds started to play with more confidence, and started creating more chances. Possession wise however, both teams had an equal share of the spoils. The game ebbed on, as a draw seemed the most likely result. But the home side made a telling substitution in the form of Boithang Haokip, who came on for warhorse Rennedy Singh. Haokip made an immediate impact ,yet again, when he scored the would be winner in the 68th minute, to send the J N Stadium into wild ruptures of celebrations. Reminiscent of the title-winning thunderous volley against Wellington Phoenix ,the lad from Manipur lined up his shot in perfect harmony to drill the ball past a hapless Subrata Pal. The turnaround was now complete-the comeback set in place, as the Reds , driven on by the now singing thousands, launched wave after wave of attack in search of the 2 goal cushion. The visiting side however , did not cave in meekly. Rather they countered every attack of the Reds in equal fashion, with Ranti Martins coming real close on one occasion, but was denied by a superb save by the Lajong keeper, Lalthuamawia Ralte.
That was pretty much the last piece of action, as the referee brought down the curtains on the eventful and fast paced encounter. For the Reds, the match would go down in history as one of the most closely fought wins , as they came back from 1 goal behind ,twice in the match to round off an epic fightback.
With 2 wins,1 draw and 1 loss at home , could this be the season of the Reds, the one where the team shows its mettle and resilience against all odds, while battling it out against the best teams in Indian football ? Will this Club from the North East improve on its performance from the previous years and continue its steady growth towards becoming a recognized giant of Indian Football in the future. The Battle continues …….