Shillong Lajong FC will be looking to ride on their positive away form as they return to the JN Stadium, Shillong, to take on Mohun Bagan in what promises to be a crucial clash as the Hero I-League draws nearer to its conclusion. The match will be held on April 12, JN Stadium at 4:30PM.
Lajong’s last three matches have all been on the road, two before the mid-season break and one most recently on Saturday, and from these games the Reds secured 7 points with two wins and a draw to strengthen their position in the top four.
The hosts in tomorrow’s match will need that positive momentum to keep going as they have to overturn a two-match losing streak at home.
“Despite losing those games, I take it as positive pressure to do well tomorrow,” Lajong head coach Thangboi Singto said at the pre-match press conference here today. “The most difficult part of a coach’s job is to keep the spirits of the players up but I’m happy to say that the mood in the camp is good,” he added.
The Reds’ 3-2 victory over DSK Shivajians in Pune on Saturday was an enthralling contest and a noteworthy one as all three goals were scored by U-22 players, namely Isaac Vanmalsawma, Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Redeem Tlang. Redeem’s header deep in stoppage time, which was also his first goal in the I-League, proved to be the winner and 9 of Lajong’s 21 goals this season have now been scored by six different U-22 players, a definitive proof that the youngsters have come a long way since the season began.
Still, Singto feels that Lajong have to play much better against second-placed Mohun Bagan, who will come into Wednesday’s fixture on the back of three victories – two in the I-League and one in the AFC Cup.
“The way that Mohun Bagan have played in their last few matches you can really see that they are on fire. We need to play much better tomorrow than we did against Shivajians. Bagan are fighting for the title and we also have to deliver a good performance in order to remain among the top teams,” Singto said.
Lajong have won a total of four home games and lost two in 2017 and have not defeated Mohun Bagan at home in the I-League since 2012. The Kolkata giants, meanwhile, have not had the best away form this season, having just won one match, while drawing four and losing one.
Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen paid great tributes to Singto and Lajong, who have placed a great deal of trust in youth players.
“We have a lot to learn from Lajong on their success in away matches. Thangboi has groomed these U-22 players very well and I have great respect for Lajong. Even at the training session today I was telling my players that tomorrow will be a hard fought game,” Sen said. He added, “All matches now are like a final for us and we have to treat tomorrow’s game as one as well.”
The Kolkata team have come to Shillong straight from their 2-1 victory in a derby match against arch-rivals East Bengal in Siliguri on Sunday. Despite a gruelling schedule, Sen informed that his squad is fully fit, so Lajong will have their work cut out in defending against experienced foreigners like Sony Norde, Yusa Katsumi and Darryl Duffy, as well as young talent Azharuddin Mallick, who scored a sensational goal in the last outing.
That Lajong scored in the last game through three of their U-22 players has also given Sen something to consider as he knows that even if Aser Dipanda Dicka, who is leading the race for the Golden Boot, does not score, there are other Reds who could prove to be a danger.
Also at the press conference was Lajong’s latest hero, Redeem, who said, “I was happy to score my first I-League goal after many years of being at Lajong (he joined the club as an U-15 player in 2010). We will give our best tomorrow no matter how the match is going, just as we did against Shivajians.”