IMPHAL: First-half goals by Saihou Jagne and Abdoulaye Koffi sealed a comfortable 2-0 win for Shillong Lajong against NEROCA at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium on Wednesday. The loss brought NEROCA’s nine-game unbeaten run to an end.
Shambu Mishtry continued in between the sticks for NEROCA as Gift Raikhan set his team up to ensure that their unbeaten run stayed intact. Felix Chidi led the line and was flanked by Ronald Singh and an in-form Subash Singh.
Laurence Doe, Samuel Lalmuanpuoa, Daniel Odafin, Saihou Jagne and Abdoulaye Koffi all started for Lajong as Bobby Nongbet opted for a strong starting lineup to get back to winning ways.
NEROCA started brightly and showed intent when Subash Singh outfoxed Laurence Doe before forcing Nidhin Lal to a very good save.
However, it was Shillong Lajong that broke the deadlock in the 13th minute. Saihou Jagne opened his account in I-League as he controlled a long ball from Rakesh Pradhan before slotting it past a helpless Mishtry to give his side a shocking lead.
The visitors struck another blow five minutes later through Abdoulaye Koffi. Novin Gurung’s cross was headed into the net by the Ivorian striker to double his side’s lead with a lot of the first-half left to play.
Gift Raikhan reacted to the double blow by bringing on David Lalbiakzara in place of Ronald Singh in the 28th minute but NEROCA remained second-best as Lajong continued their forays forward.
Jagne only needed to beat Mishtry to notch his brace at the half-hour mark but the custodian was quick to come off his line and collect the ball before the Gambian striker could launch a shot at goal.
Nedo Turkovic looked to have given the home side hope when he put the ball into the back of the net from a free-kick after the restart but the goal was disallowed as he was adjudged to have used his arm to guide the ball in.
Nidhin Lal landed awkwardly as he kept out Subash Singh’s effort in the 53rd minute but was back up on his feet in no time as Lajong displayed incredible fighting spirit to hold on to their two-goal lead.
Turkovic was able to get into the box from the right and square it into the path of Felix Chidi but the Nigerian striker shot went wide. Second-half substitute Sushil Singh failed to release the trigger after dancing his way past challenges and getting to the byline inside the box and his failure to get a shot allowed the Lajong defenders to heave sighs of relief.
Lajong’s spirit until the final whistle ended NEROCA’s incredible unbeaten run and handed them just their second defeat of the season.
Shillong Lajong will now travel to Calicut to face Gokulam on January 28, 2018. NEROCA will lock horns against Minerva Punjab in a top-of-the-table clash in I-League on January 27, 2018.