Northeastern giants Shillong Lajong FC started their campaign in the 11th edition of the Hero I-League by securing three points defeating debutants Gokulam Kerala FC by 1-0.
It was Guwahati boy Alen Deory’s shot that was deflected and went in at the 78th minute as Lajong got all three points in their opening fixture of the Hero I-League at the JN Stadium in Shillong.
The Lajong starting eleven had all their 7 Indian players from the Academy among which Rakesh Pradhan, Kynsailang Khongsit, Samuel Kynshi and Phurba Lachenpa were handed their I-League debuts.
Also, Lajong’s foreign recruits Daniel Odafin, Aiman Al-Hagri, Juho Oh and Laurence Doe had their I-League debuts.
The match was evenly poised from the very start but the home team were much more dominating in the opposition half. Lajong had to sub out Aiman Al-Hagri in the 15th by Novin Gurung.
The Reds were in an attacking mood from the very beginning with a few corners and shots which were a whisker away from the post. The defensive duo of Lawrence and Juho Oh too had their fair share of chances to keep the Gokulam attackers’ threat away.
A golden opportunity presented itself in the 40th minute when Redeem Tlang found himself open on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat but the midfielder fumbled inside the box and missed the chance.
The first half ended goalless as both the teams failed to find the back of the net and coach Alison had a lot of talking to do during the break.
Lajong started the second half with an added intent to penetrate the Gokulam goal. The team was creating opportunities in the opposition half but failing to find the final pass. Samuel and Hardy Cliff came close to scoring but their shots failed to beat the Gokulam keeper. Coach Alison brought in Samuel Lyngdoh to bring some flow into the game and it paid off as they started to create more chances up front.
Lajong were awarded a free kick in the 78th minute just outside Gokulam’s box. Samuel’s free kick found Alen, whose header was deflected off a Gokulam defender and went in to give Lajong the goal that they were looking for. The Lajong Faithfuls went berserk after the goal.
The Reds then started attacking more, looking for a second goal to make their lead a comfortable one but the Gokulam defence made sure to keep the home team at bay.
As the referee blew the final whistle after the 4 added minutes, the home team enjoyed their first three points of the season of the Hero I-League and make their way to the top of the table.
Shillong Lajong will play their next match at home against Churchill Brothers on December 2 in Shillong.