It was a frustrating day at the office for Shillong Lajong FC as they were defeated 2-0 by defending champions Bengaluru FC in a 16th round Hero I-League match at the JN Stadium, Shillong, on Saturday.
A goal was scored on either side of half time for the visitors by their captain Sunil Chhetri and Harmanjot Singh Khabra. Despite a few chances of their own, Lajong were unable to crack a resolute Bengaluru defence.
The physical and mental preparedness for today’s game so soon after Wednesday’s gruelling 1-1 draw against Mohun Bagan was always a worry and it looked like the Reds struggled to play at their full potential, with the players unable to effect as many good passes, keep enough possession or capitalise on their chances in front of goal.
The match, played under clear skies, started well for the hosts, however, with Samuel Lalmuanpuia meeting a cross on the right and feeding the ball through to Aser Dipanda Dicka, who was then fouled on the edge of the box. Although nothing was made out of the resulting free-kick, Dicka had another chance soon after in the 11th minute when he attempted a cheeky flick volley off a cross that went just wide.
Chhetri, who had been moving around the pitch throughout the game, got the goal in the 26th minute after he received a pass just outside the box. Getting past his markers, the BFC skipper found the target by placing the ball low to the left of goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.
Six minutes later and a free-kick from Isaac Vanmalsawma saw Dicka manage to get his head to the ball, but his attempt went wide of the post.
It was a rather frustrating day for the Cameroonian forward as he found himself expertly marked by tall Bengaluru defenders Juan Antonio Gonzalez and John Johnson pretty much throughout the 90 minutes.
The Reds started the second half still in a positive frame of mind, with coach Thangboi Singto bringing on Fabio Pena in place of Bipin Singh. An early corner presented Lajong with an opportunity, but Chinglensana Singh’s header went just over the bar.
The hosts were dealt a second blow, however, soon after when a looping cross from the left flank was met by a Khabra header that was on target.
That took the wind out of the Reds’ sails, but they tried to get back into the game supported by the loud cheers of the Lajong Faithfuls.
Singto later made his last two substitutions, bringing on home favourites Aiborlang Khongjee and Rocus Lamare to try and shake things up, but the move did not bear fruit as Bengaluru coach Albert Roca went defensive in order to protect his side’s advantage after the second goal.
The win for Bengaluru means that they overtake Lajong in the I-League standings, rising up to fourth place. Although the two clubs are tied on 24 points, BFC move in front on head-to-head.
Lajong now have a week to get over this setback to their campaign. They will play at Mumbai FC on 23rd April in what will be their penultimate I-League 2016-17 fixture.