The Mizo striker is the second highest scoring Indian in the ISL this season.
Except for an outstanding Sunil Chhetri, no Indian forward has been as much value for money in the Hero Indian Super League as Jeje Lalpekhlua. The Chennaiyin FC striker has scored nine goals in this edition, yet he has not escaped criticism.
Jeje will lead the line for the Super Machans against Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday. He is now the toast of the supporters after scoring a brace in the second leg semis against FC Goa, but it has not always been the case for the Mizoram-born striker this season.
Despite enjoying his best ever ISL, there have been at least a couple of occasions in the campaign where fingers were pointed at him.
He started the season for Chennaiyin FC without scoring in three games and questions were raised on his form. As he does always, Jeje responded with a telling brace against ATK, which included a 90th-minute winner in a 3-2 win.
Having silenced his critics, he went on to enjoy a purple patch, scoring five goals in his next eight games. But then, Jeje once again went through a lean patch. Six games went by without the Mizo sniper finding the target and the clamour over his lack of goals began again.
However, it took a public vote of confidence from coach John Gregory for Jeje to start firing again, and he did that in incredible style against FC Goa in the second semis.
“I told Jeje he would get two,” said Gregory on Jeje’s brace to help Chennaiyin FC win 3-0 (4-1 aggregate) against Goa.
“In Goa, even in the humidity, he (Jeje) ran himself to the ground. During the second semis at home, he cramped because of his enthusiasm and effort. If you continue to support him, you know he will get something.”
Jeje has not escaped criticism since his early days with Pailan Arrows and later Dempo Sports Club. Whenever the goals dried up, he became the focus of unwanted attention. Yet, almost always, Jeje has delivered.
“Our coach (John Gregory) believes in me and I wanted to repay the faith he has shown in me. It’s been a long run this season and as a unit we have achieved our target. Saturday (final) is a big game and we are ready for it.”