SHILLONG: Shillong Lajong FC edged past debutantes Gokulam Kerala FC 1-0 to open their I-League 2017/18 campaign on Monday evening. It was an hard-fought win for the Reds thanks to a 78th minute goal from Alan Deory at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The game was largely a snore fest‚ punctuated by weak crosses and loss of possession. The cold weather in Shillong meant the game was never going to be able to demand a decent tempo and so most of the passing and movement was at pedestrian pace.
Lajong started well, putting early pressure on the Gokulam defense. It resulted in a few good goal scoring opportunities for the home side. Gokulam custodian Nikhil Barnard, however, was in brilliant form, blocking numerous shots at goal from ending up in the back of the net.
Gokulam, on the other hand, slowly got more into the game, having some good combinations going forward during the second part of the first half.
The Bino George-coached side had the experience of Sushanth Mathew in midfield but their problems remain upfront where the final touch is increasingly hurried or ill thought.
Ivorian striker Bayi Kamo Stephane was guilty of over elaboration while Lelo Blaise Mbele did not take shots when he could.
Lajong‚ for their part‚ circulated the ball into an almost comatose state but when they went forward easily lost possession.
Hardy Cliff Nongbri tried to liven up matters with a long range shot in the 37th minute when he spotted Nikhil off his line but his effort was off target.
Gokulam’s only real chance of the first half came when Khaled Alsaleh’s free kick forced Lajong keeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa to make a flamboyant save.
The Malabar-based side went narrowly close through Kamo shortly after the break but Deory’s goal was the only significant event of the second half.
Deory’s persistence was a big part of the goal with Samuel Lalmuanpuia assisting and Provat Lakra failing to clear and Deory picking up the loose ball to head it home in the 78th minute.
From there on, the game was basically done. Gokulam’s spirit looked a bit broken after the goal, as the side didn’t create too much in the sense of goal scoring chances during the latter stages of the match.
Lajong will host Churchill Brothers next on December 4 while Gokulam play Chennai City FC in the Southern Derby a couple of days later.