Lajong salvage Sporting draw

ONGC upset East Bengal, Salgaocar hold Air India


SHILLONG: In a pulsating I-league Round 15 encounter at the Duler Stadium , at Mapusa in Goa, Shillong Lajong had to settle for a goalless draw against hosts Sporting Clube De Goa and would consider themselves unlucky not to have walked away with the three points after dominating much of the game.

It was all Lajong in the first half, with the first shot coming in as early as the ninth minute as Friday Gebeneme shot wide of the goal, which could have given the visitors the early upper hand.

Sporting though, suffered an early setback when Dawson Fernandes had to limp off the field due to injury and was replaced by Victotino Fernandes in the seventh minute.

The Reds then had another missed opportunity in the 33rd minute when Lalramluaha Hmar’s shot went wide of the goal.

The hosts were on the back foot quite early in the game, but came back strongly to make it an even contest.

The first half ended on an even keel as both teams had a fairly good chance of taking the lead.

On the other side of the break, in the 52nd minute, Lalramluaha’s set-piece was crossed into the Sporting box by Friday, but Sushil Kumar Singh’s fierce header was parried away by Sporting’s keeper Ashok Singh to once again deny the Reds the lead.

Shillong Lajong coach Desmond Bulpin then brought in 17-year-old Jacob Lalrawngbawla for Chitrasen Singh in the 52nd minute and in the 79th minute Bipin Singh was brought in for Friday Gbeneme, who was reported to be injured on Monday.

The hosts also made a couple of changes in the second half; the 65th minute saw Ningthoujam Samananda Singh coming on for Stephen Barretto and in the 85 minute Victorino Fernandes was substituted for Rowllin Borges .

The fag end of the evenly-poised match saw some goal-to-goal action from both the teams -Eugeneson Lyngdoh nearly snatched a late goal for SLFC with a blistering 30-yard freekick and the hosts’ Seiya Sughishita missed from a close-range header on two occasions in the dying minutes of the game.

In the end, both teams would consider the draw to be a fair result, more so for the Reds, who would take heart from a wonderful display of football on away soil, coming just a few days after they suffered a humiliating 0-6 loss to Churchill Brothers at the same ground.

Lajong, however, have yet to win an away match this season, something they need to correct in a hurry if they are to stay out of the relegation zone.

One of the consequences of the Mohun Bagan suspension saga has been that all of the Kolkata club’s matches have been rendered null and void, which is a bitter blow for Lajong, who beat the giants in their first match of the current season last year.

As a result, Lajong have lost three crucial points and are now in 12th place in the points table, one spot above bottom-dwelling club, United Sikkim.

SLFC also have the worst goal difference of any team and that places them behind Salgaocar, who also have 11 points.

And while Lajong are within sniffing distance of some of the teams ahead in the standings, the Shillong club have played more matches than any team between eighth and 14th places.

Lajong could take heart, perhaps, from ONGC, who once at the bottom of the table have shot up to seventh place.

ONGC rode on Japanese recruit Yusa Katsumi’s late strike to stun heavyweights East Bengal by a solitary goal in a major upset of this season in New Delhi.

The oilmen saw off repeated attacks from their fancied Kolkata rivals and then scored in the 87th minute through Katsumi after a fine counter-attack to break the hearts of East Bengal players.

In the late match, Salgaocar came from a goal behind to draw with Air India in Pune.

Vijith Shetty scored for the hosts in the fifth minute before Salgaocar responded with a goal from Francis Fernandes in the 32nd minute. (with PTI inputs)

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