Shillong Lajong secured a berth in the final round of the All India Football Federation’s Second Division League with a smashing 5-0 victory over nine-man East Bengal reserves at Third Ground, Polo, here today.
The other, later match saw United SC of Kolkata edge bottom side Diamond Rock 3-2 in the latter’s home ground in Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh. United thus finished at the top of Group B.
Only the top team from each group will go through to the final round along with the overall best second-placed club across the four groups. Since Group B has fewer teams (the other three have five clubs each), the results against fifth-placed teams in other groups were not used to determine the best second-placed team (it’s a bit complicated even for TSR to understand) and that meant that SLFC qualified for the final round.
Today, Lajong’s superlative triumph saw goals from Sangti Janai Shianglong (42′, 75′), Wadajied Kynsai Ryngkhlem (85′), Ronaldkydon Lyngdoh Nonglait (90′) and Hardy Cliff Nongbri (90’+5).
Things got a little silly towards the end, however, as (just before Ryngkhlem’s goal), the assistant referee awarded a throw-in to the hosts even though it looked (from our vantage point) like it should have gone to EB. Conceding just a few seconds later sent the visiting players over the edge and two of them – Niranjan Mondal and Nabi Hussain Khan – were red-carded for their belligerent behaviour towards the referee.
SLFC coach Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet made two changes to the starting line-up, bringing in Amon Lepcha and Ryngkhlem in place of Babysunday Marngar and Chanmitre Thma.
Lajong dominated the game in terms of chances but were foiled by some good goalkeeping, that is until Shianglong tapped in the first goal following some hectic action in the EB box.
That was the only goal of the first 45 minutes and for a while in the second half East Bengal looked dangerous but the finishing wasn’t there.
Finally, when Shianglong was in open space and received a cross he was able to dink it over the keeper to make it 2-0 and give the home team more breathing space.
The diminutive No. 10 then turned provider a few minutes later for Ryngkhlem but the rest of the game was marred by EB’s tantrum, though Nonglait and Nongbri took full advantage of the superiority in numbers to score for Lajong in the remaining minutes.
Lajong thus join Delhi FC (Group A winners), United SC (Group B), FC Bengaluru United (Group C) and Ambernath United (Group D) in the final round from where the top two teams after the round robin action will gain promotion to the I-League next season.
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