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Shillong Lajong gear up to take on East Bengal

Shillong Lajong FC

Shillong Lajong FC will take on East Bengal Club in a knockout fixture of the revived Hero Federation Cup 2016 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Shillong on Sunday (May 1, 2016) at 17.00 IST.

The Federation Cup which was rumoured to be scrapped off by AIFF was brought back this season to accommodate the mandatory Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rule whereby 18 games must be played by a team in a season. This time the format for the cup has changed from a group-cum-knockout format to a knockout format with home and away matches, hence the away goal advantage will apply.

Shillong Lajong FC, who are riding high on their win and fight back from relegation, will be eager to face the Kolkata giants in their home turf yet again after the thrilling last game of the Hero I-League season against the Red and Gold. The 8 time Federation Cup champions though only arrived at Shillong late Saturday evening after training at their home ground. Speaking at a press conference in the city, Shillong Lajong Head Coach Thangboi Singto said, “The good thing is that we are starting at home. The team spirit is always there in Lajong starting from first game of the season till the end. We have leadership and experience at one end, youth and talent at the other and that is the way Lajong has gone through this season. So going forward I think East Bengal has always been tough but the game we won in the last match was a bit lucky”.

The Reds, who triumphed over East Bengal in the last game of the Hero I-League season, plan to “keep the consistency” as the coach exclaimed that consistency was the quality they have been lacking. East Bengal on the other hand are looking to get a win after a disappointing end to their I-League campaign. The Red and Gold, who have coach Trevor Morgan on his second spell with the club, did not manage to grant a win on his first game back at the helm. But the Englishman will be looking to prepare his squad for the victory in the first game of the Federation Cup.

The home team have a full squad to work with as Thangboi said that only Aibor Khongjee and Aiban Dohling are out with injuries. Penn Orji, who has stepped in brilliantly as club captain in the absence of Aibor, has done really well towards the end of the season. Penn said, “It is an honour and not pressure. It is an honour for me that the club has given me the responsibility.”

Lajong who has fielded the youngest average squad in the I-League will look to keep up with the young talents in the squad, as “experience and youth combined is our strength” says the Lajong coach. Rupert Nongrum, one of the Lajong academy graduates that had managed to string together a good run of games, is looking to win the home game in the tie, “as a draw is simply not enough” says the young starlet.

The home side, who were finalists in 2010, are very much ready to face East Bengal in the first round of the Federation Cup and will look to keep their defence tight so as to not give away an away goal that would come in handy in the second leg of the tie.

(Report & Photo courtesy Shillong Lajong FC)