Kolkata giants East Bengal FC showcased a second successful professional performance away from home and on the hills of the NorthEast, when they emerged 3-1 winners over Shillong Lajong at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Shillong, Meghalaya.
In game eight of the 12th I-League, East Bengal rode on a first half-brace by Kerala striker Jobby Justin and a second-half strike from Bidyasagar Singh to thwart a spirited Shillong Lajong FC side, who got one back in the second half through left wing back Rakesh Pradhan.
Shillong Lajong FC’s football remained attractive, dominating and flowing, but the inexperience of having nine under-22 players in their eleven showed up eventually, after a fluent win against Aizawl FC at home last week in their opening game. East Bengal go on top of the league standings with two crucial away wins to kick-start their campaign, after having beaten NEROCA 2-0 in Game Week 1.
Alison Kharsyntiew, the Shillong Lajong FC coach, began with an unchanged starting XI while East Bengal’s Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia chose to begin with Brandon Vanlalremdika in midfield in place of Yami Longwah, who had started in their opening encounter.
Shillong Lajong FC was on the ball from the get-go as captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia’s super strike off a free-kick in the danger zone outside the box, ricocheted off the QEB woodwork with goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar soundly beaten.
Quite against the run of play though, it was East Bengal who took an early lead. From Lalrindika Ralte’s left-footed free-kick, Kerala frontman and Hero of the Match Jobby Justin leapt up to connect with a perfectly placed and timed header, which beat Neithovilie Chalieu in the Shillong Lajong FC goal all ends up.
The goal spurred the Shillong Lajong FC boys even further and they put the East Bengal side under sustained pressure with a wave of attacks. Samuel Lyngdoh’s crisp strike from 25 yards out in the 23rd minute was blocked by Dagar and captain Lalmuanpuia’s punch after Kamalpreet had given the ball away inside the East Bengal half, were notable in this period. There was a spell when Shillong Lajong FC forced three corners in the space of 15 mins but could not find the equaliser.
It was then in the 41st minute when Jobby helped East Bengal double the lead from a counter attack. Mexican Enrique Esqueda who had a relatively quiet game, entered the box and his attempted cross hit a Lajong FC defender and looped up into the box. Jobby rose first to head the ball down and it deflected off a Lajong FC defender towards Esqueda again who promptly lobbed back to Jobby who volleyed to beat Neitho on the bounce and lodge the ball into the Lajong FC net.
After the lemon break, Shillong Lajong FC carried on with their attacking forays. Samuel Lyngdoh created and missed the most for Shillong Lajong FC today but he overall had a good game. In between East Bengal missed a couple of chances through Brandon and Laldanmawia Ralte.
In the 71st minute, Shillong Lajong FC got a goal back when the tireless left wing-back Rakesh Pradhan rose to connect a perfect header off a Hnamte corner. Shillong Lajong FC’s joy was shortlived however as East Bengal struck again a couple of minutes later through substitute Bidyasagar Singh.
The goal, in fact, involved two substitutes prominently. Shillong Lajong FC’s Dameki, who had come on just before the Shillong corner which led to their goal, blundered with a back pass inside his own half. Bidyasagar latched on to the ball and unleashed a run towards the box in the clear. Once inside, he opened up his body and with a sublime right-footed curler, beat Neitho found the back of the net.
Shillong Lajong FC kept on pressing as Samuel Lyngdoh’s freakish shot from distance was tipped by Dagar to kiss the East Bengal bar and go out for a corner. Alison even brought on Bonison to replace Hnamte in the 91st minute, but it was East Bengal’s day and they left the field with full three points.