The 32nd game of the 12th I-League saw a very competitive battle between two Northeastern clubs Shillong Lajong FC and NEROCA FC which finally saw the hosts being defeated 1-2 by NEROCA at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong.
Felix Chidi drew first blood for NEROCA in the 33rd minute, while Phrangki Buam got a much-needed equaliser for the hosts in the 48th Minute. Shillong Lajong FC, however, could not contain NEROCA FC’s experienced attack as Subash Singh, in the 83rd minute, sealed the tie for the Imphal-based side.
With this win, NEROCA FC have now surged up to the fifth spot in the I-League points table with eight points from two wins and an equal number of draws and losses.
The visitors were onto serious business right from the first minute when a powerful shot from NEROCA forward Subhash Singam hit the top of the woodwork to get deflected to the left post and finally, fell outside the line to be collected by Lajong goalkeeper Neithovilie.
Shillong Lajong FC were playing a spectacular game in the midfield but lack of creativity in finding a good finish kept them away from creating any close chance to score. In the 19th minute, when Lalawmpuia Hnamte latched a cross between the NEROCA defenders to Phrangki Buam, the latter bombed the opportunity.
NEROCA, in the 33rd minute, got the opening goal when Felix Chidi headed it home from an inch-perfect cross from Malem Metei.
This deficit got Shillong Lajong FC’s coach Alison into action as he brought in Maorem Mahesh Singh in place of Lalwmpuia Hnamte in the 36th minute. Lajong, thereafter, attempted a few creative intrusions but were unable to find an equaliser.
The second half began with Shillong Lajong FC continuing with their attacks and their efforts were soon rewarded when an acute angle pass from Mahesh Singh was received by Phrangki Buam to restore the parity.
Shillong Lajong FC could have found their second goal but Mahesh Naorem Singh missed the opportunity in the 79th minute.
NEROCA who were visibly surprised at the attacking form of Shillong Lajong FC in the second half were back to their own by now and slowly started their attacks led by Felix Chidi and supported by Katsumi Yusa, Subash Singh and Malem Meitei.
NEROCA’s return to the attack was soon rewarded when Subash Singh smacked the ball from an outstanding flick from Felix Chidi to regain the lead in the 83rd minute.
Shillong Lajong FC who apart from Indian Arrows are the only team in the 12th I-League to field an all-Indian squad showcased lots of guts and commitment along with creativity on the field today but were unlucky to wrap it up as the second best at home.
NEROCA will now welcome Indian Arrows at the Khuman Lumpak Stadium in Imphal on December 7 while Shillong Lajong FC will travel to Srinagar to take on I-League debutants Real Kashmir FC on December 11.