NEW DELHI: Indian Arrows blank Shillong Lajong FC 3-0 in an I-League 2017/18 encounter at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Tuesday afternoon.
Jitendra Singh’s (19th) goal gave Arrows a 1-0 lead at interval, before second-half substitutes Nongdamba Naorem (86th) and Rahul Balan’s (90+1st) late goals secured full three points for Arrows. But it might well have been a different story had Lajong taken their chances, particularly in the first-half.
The win lifted Arrows to sixth place in the league table with 6 points from 5 matches, while Lajong remained on fourth position with 10 points from 7 games.
Arrows went into the match with Assistant Coach Flyod Pinto in charge while Head Coach Luis Norton de Matos is away on Christmas vacation.
The game started brightly with the visitors seeing little of the ball in the opening exchanges. Arrows looked dangerous when came forward, looking extremely fluid in their movement and especially when they attacked down the flanks, but they failed to make enough chances in front of goal as the final pass always lacked the necessary quality.
After a number of missed half chances, a perfect opportunity fell for Abhijit Sarkar in the 13th minute, but the midfielder missed from inside the area, after Jeakson Singh delivered a neat cross into his path.
Six minutes later, Arrows grabbed the lead when Jitendra found the back of the net from Rahim Ali’s pass to give the hosts a well deserved lead.
Arrows, who came into the match on the back of three successive defeats, could not have asked for a better start.
The visitors, though, went in immediate search of parity with Abdoulaye Koffi and Abdullah Al Hagri forcing Arrows custodian Dheeraj Singh into successive saves at the other end of the pitch.
However, it was Arrows who went closest to the next goal with Rahim squandering a golden chance to double the hosts’ lead. The striker denied by Lajong keeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa who made a brilliant save.
Late in the first-half, Lajong came close to pulling level when Koffi got on the end of a pin-point cross by Samuel Lalmuanpuia, but his resulting header went wide of the target following a period of sustained pressure.
Arrows did just about enough to hold a 1-0 lead at the break.
The hosts began the second half brightly like they did the first, with a goal beckoning from every move.
With Arrows pushing for a second goal, skipper Amarjit Singh came close to finding the back of the net, but his attempt failed to hit the target in the 54th minute.
Eager not to lose two games in succession, Lajong tried to push men forward in search for the equalizer, but passing in the final third was poor and chances on goal were hard to come by.
Lajong pushed the self destruct button in the 61st minute when substitute Lalrohlua received his marching orders for a needless challenge on Ninthoinganba Meetei.
Arrows used their extra man to good advantage with waves of attacks being launched at Phurba Tempa Lachenpa’s goal.
With Arrows piling on the pressure and using their extra man to their benefit, it was obvious that Lajong would struggle to hold out the tide of blue jerseys that were swamping their penalty area.
Naorem dribbled his way past five Lajong defenders before finishing off the move with a brilliant strike into the bottom right to make it 2-0 in the 86th minute.
Then Rahul rounded off the scoring in stoppage time from Rahim’s pass.