Shillong Lajong FC returned to winning ways with a commanding victory against Mumbai FC in their Round 2 match of the Hero I-League. Boithang Haokip scored the only goal of the match from an excellent free kick.
The match saw the return of Cornell Glen to the Lajong starting line up along with new signing Penn Orji slotting in the hole behind Glen and Len Doungel. Lajong captain Aibor Khongjee also made his first Hero I-League appearance this season alongside Nim Dorjee in the back four.
The match started with Lajong firing on all cylinders as the home side pressed high up the pitch clearly forcing Mumbai FC on the back foot. The hosts could have found the lead if not for some glimpses of misunderstanding amongst the frontline. The match carried on halfway into the first half with chances disappearing but with most of the possession still with The Reds. The game saw no clear cut chances towards the end of the first half as both teams went into the break with no goals and with the sides tied at 0-0.
The second half began with much of the momentum in favour of Lajong. Thangboi Singto made a half time substitution by bringing on Brazilian forward Uilliams Souza Silva in place of Jacob Lalrwangbawla. The Reds could have taken the lead on the 48th minute when Doungel made a run from the left flank and cut inside, only to scuff his shot wide. The hosts however kept pressing with much needed urgency. Glen got another chance just three minutes later as he cut in from the left but his unfavoured left foot forced the shot just over the cross bar.
Shillong Lajong changed their shape with Len, Glen and Uilliams sitting in a front three as Penn Orji moved in the central midfield position vacated by Jacob Lalrwangbawla. The change of formation meant that Mumbai FC midfielder Taisuke Matsugae would have more on his hands to check Penn Orji and with much of the pressure on the Japanese, Orji was wrestled down just a few yards outside the box to earn Lajong a free kick. Free kick specialists Boithang Haokip then fired the hosts into the lead with a trademark curling free kick right at the top corner leaving Mumbai FC goalkeeper Sanjiban Ghosh stretching in vain.
The lead however did not see the hosts sit back as they kept pressing for their second. Uilliams Silva was looking dangerous since he came on and almost found the second goal for the home side when his 40 yard scorcher flew just over the bar. The visitors started to have some rhythm in their attack and put some pressure on the defence as well as the home fans. Mumbai FC however could have got the equaliser against the run of play when Josimar towered over Lajong custodian Rehenesh TP to only find his header cleared off the line from an alert Nim Dorjee.
That proved to be the best chance for Mumbai FC as Lajong pressed hard again and looked to have earned a penalty in the 86th minute when Uilliams seemed to have been brought down inside the box by Mumbai FC central back Chika Wali but the referee never blew his whistle.
The match henceforth ended in the home side’s favour as Shillong Lajong got their much deserved three points and their first win of the Hero I-League season.