Shillong Lajong FC’s run of eight games unbeaten in I-League 2023-24 came to a sudden end today with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of North East rivals Aizawl FC at First Ground, Polo, here.
Former champions Aizawl capitalised on a string of SLFC errors to pick up a stunning win to move them to second in the points table with 17 from nine games, while Lajong dropped one position to fourth with 16 from nine.
In four I-League meetings in Shillong over the years, Aizawl had never beaten Lajong. Today, though, Lalrinzuala Lalbaknia (4′), R Ramdinthara (17′) and Joe Zoherliana (57′) picked off the Lajong defence with ease.
Lajong coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet made just one change to his starting line-up from the recent victory against Churchill Brothers, swapping Renan Paulino de Souza for Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait.
Aizawl have been the in-form team of late and they made the most of their winning momentum.
The visitors were set on course for the win by Lalbiaknia. The star forward has been in his element this I-League season and he proved his worth once more when he scored the first goal against Lajong in the fourth minute of the match. A long ball was played towards Aizawl midfielder R Lalthanmawia from the deep. However, Lajong defender Kynsailang Khongsit intervened and tried to clear the ball but his header was poor and it landed at the feet of Lalbiaknia, who shot home his ninth goal of the tournament.
The strike also made him the joint-top scorer of the league along with Gokulam Kerala’s Alejandro Sanchez Lopez.
Aizawl doubled their advantage in the 17th minute. A through ball released Lalthanmawia on the left and the winger delivered a beautifully weighted cross past the Lajong defence. Ramdinthara made a beautifully timed run into the Lajong penalty box before connecting with the ball sweetly and finding the back of the net.
Aizawl were content with their lead and allowed Lajong to dominate the proceedings, with the home side finishing with 70 percent of ball possession but little to show for it. Aizawl ensured that their defence held firm and negated Lajong’s attacks easily.
The lead was further extended in the 57th minute when a bungle from Lajong goalkeeper Bishal Lama gifted Aizawl their third goal. Lalthanmawia was again in the thick of the action as he curled in a corner from the right. Zoherliana evaded his marker and headed down the ball, which bounced awkwardly in front of Lama. The goalkeeper, who should have collected the ball comfortably, failed to react swiftly and the ball crossed the goal line.
Off the pitch, it looked like there was a breakdown in security as numerous (ticketless) spectators managed to get in during the game and sit in the unfinished bleachers on the eastern side of the ground.
SLFC must now pick themselves up and head to Srinagar where they will meet fifth-placed Real Kashmir FC on December 16.