Rejuvenated Lajong hopeful of a win against East Bengal
Written by: Sourav Neogi
The game is a crucial signpost in the Red and Gold's quest for a maiden I-League title...
After some very inconsistent performances at the start of the season, Shillong Lajong are one of the form teams of the present I-League campaign. The Reds have been in a red-hot form at home this year, winning four out of their five matches so far. However, their away performances have been awful to say the least as the Meghalaya-based club have only managed to salvage four points from the four away matches they have played, the last of which being the 4-1 thrashing against newcomers Chennai City FC. Despite the disastrous result against Chennai, Lajong are hopeful of getting back on track by winning their next league clash against East Bengal on Saturday. Lajong are currently in fourth position in the league standings and will be vying for nothing less than three points against the league leaders in their den.
On the opposite side of the same coin, East Bengal are currently finding it very difficult to maintain their leading position in the league table. Since the prestigious Kolkata Derby last month, the Kolkata giants have played three matches, winning only one of them, which has put them in a dangerous situation with both Aizawl FC and arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the title race. Add to that, injury concerns have been a vile point for the Kolkata-based club in recent times, which is bound to put a wrinkle or two in East Bengal’s approach towards the game. However, the Red and Gold have boosted by a stunning 1-3 win away to reigining cjampions Bengaluru FC last time out.
Lajong have no fresh injury concerns and boss Thangboi Singto has a full squad to pick from. Returning defender Aiborlang Khongjee who has re-signed for the club will feature in the 18-man squad.
Injuries have been a real concern for the Red and Gold brigade since the beginning of the season and the hosts will be missing a key player in Wedson Anselme against Shillong Lajong on Saturday. Star defender Ivan Bukenya is also doubtful against the Shillong-based team after being diagnosed with an ear problem. Willis Plaza is another name who might miss the game against Shillong Lajong due to match fitness issues. However, veteran midfielder Cavin Lobo has come back from injury and is a part of the 18-man team that will play against Lajong.
Head to Head
East Bengal and Shillong Lajong have faced off 17 times in all competitions to date. East Bengal have won the majority of the encounters with seven wins under their belt compared to Lajong’s six wins over them. The remaining four matches were drawn between these two teams.
Thangboi Singto-Shillong Lajong: Despite a dream run at home, Lajong head coach Thangboi Singto is aware of the challenge at the store tomorrow and minced no words when he said, “The match against East Bengal will be our biggest test so far.”
“Till now we have beaten teams which are below us in the standings. To improve our position we have to beat sides which are ahead of us. So that way it’s a crucial encounter tomorrow,” Singto said in the pre-match conference here today.
The Lajong gaffer also lavished praises on the opponents stating that the Red & Golds are the most balanced side in the I-League this season and have a strong bench. Singto, however, underlined that Lajong have a good record against the Red and Golds and the hosts can net full three points tomorrow.
Trevor Morgan-East Bengal: Trevor Morgan stated that his boys will have their task cut out in Shillong. Asserting that the table-toppers tag did not put any additional pressure on his side, Morgan said, “It’s all up to us. We know we are in a good position and we know what we need to do tomorrow. But nevertheless, we expect a very tough game.”
Replying to a query on East Bengal’s not-so-good track record against the Reds, Morgan said, “We can’t hide behind a bad track record. We can’t give excuses.’ The visiting coach said though every game is a must-win from here on, there will be a lot of twists and turns as the season progresses. “There are still 21 points to play for and all we can do is what we can do,” he said while replying to whether East Bengal were under pressure on account of their title ambitions.
Man to Watch
Asier Dipanda Dicka-Shillong Lajong FC: The former DSK Shivajians forward is currently enjoying a purple patch of his career. The Cameroonian forward has scored eight goals in the league this season and is also the top scorer of the I-League. Dipanda is a well-known figure in the country for his goal scoring ability, pace, runs both on and off the ball. A visionary footballer, Dipanda also is a master of pinpoint passes which has been effective for Shillong Lajong to score important goals in the League this season. If displayed a similar performance as the past few games, Dipanda is sure to steal all the limelight for himself against East Bengal on Saturday.
Gurwinder Singh-East Bengal: The veteran defender has been one of the most stable pillars of the Kolkata giants this year. The 30-year old defender has shown excellent defensive abilities while dealing with counter-attacks, solely because his defensive partner in the central defensive pair (Ivan Bukenya) is a ball playing defender and likes to go on forward runs. Singh is known for his positional sense, in which he has excelled several times this season, covering the entire central defense left vacant momentarily by Bukenya against fast playing teams such as their next opponents Lajong. The Jalandhar-born defender is also a dependable name while making clearances and tackles and is one of the best in the league in terms of marking the opposition forwards. With the league’s leading goal scorer Asier Dipanda Dicka playing for the opposition on Saturday, Gurwinder is set to be the make-or-break point for the Red and Gold brigade and holds the outcome of the match upon his shoulders.
Shillong Lajong FC (4-2-3-1): Kaith (GK), S.Singh, Tamang, K.Singh, Shadap, Nongrum, Vanmalsawma, Kinowaki, Deory, B.Singh, Dipanda.
East Bengal FC (4-4-2): Rehnesh (GK), Gurung, Gurwinder, Mondal, Das, Mehtab, Borges, Poojary, Rafique, Robin, Payne.
The match will be telecast live on Ten 2 from 04:30 PM on Saturday. You can also follow live commentary of the game on Khelnow.com.
Published: Fri Mar 03, 2017 08:21 PM IST