The Flaming Oranje have their work cut out for them as they face the red half of Shillong who have a near perfect away record.
Round fifteen of the I-League brings us to Goa, where the Flaming Oranje of Sporting Clube de Goa look to singe the challenge posed to them by Shillong Lajong as both teams battle to assert themselves in the I-League table.
Win, and Sporting have a chance to close the gap on Bengaluru FC at the top of the table to just three points whereas a loss would put them six points behind the runaway leaders of the campaign so far. So the the approach to the game from Sporting Goa's perspective has already been set.
Shillong Lajong meanwhile have quietly crept up the table to third, just a point behind the team they challenge in this particular round. It's been a great run of form from a team who critics wrote off early in the season as mere mid-table scrappers. They now have their own title ambitions and will no doubt look to prove their worth against the second placed team.
Sporting Goa head into this match having engineered an important win over Dempo SC in the Goan derby. That victory saw them take second place off Pune FC, while with a game in hand they trail title favourites Bengaluru FC by six points. Closing the gap on the leaders will be Oscar Bruzon's sole focus.
The Spanish coach will not have all his first choice players available to face the third placed team, as Mathew Golsalves and Pratesh Shirodkar are out with suspensions while Dawson Fernandez and Joseph Pereira continue to be absent due to their injury problems. Gonzalo Neila is in a rich vein of form as the defender has played a pivotal role in all of Sporting’s games so far. Boima Karpeh, the Australian striker, has scored a number of important goals so far this season and he will look to add more to his tally.
"Shillong is a team that demands big physical efforts from their rivals. They are compact, tactically well organised and very fast in the transitions so we have been working the full week on the game plan to beat them. Our players are very confident at this point and willing to play. We are focused only in getting the three points and trying to avoid all the "good noise" that we are creating with our impressive performances and results. I want the boys to be extremely and exclusively thinking in the game. Following the intensity of our training week, i guess we will play an fantastic game tomorrow," Bruzons told Goal before the match.Shillong Lajong meanwhile are enjoying a purple patch. They have leapfrogged worthy challengers to the title to land up in third and have the chance to nick second spot if they overcome their next adversaries.
Thangboi Singto, the mastermind behind Lajongs rise elucidated, “I think anybody raised in the I-League has to perform and they have to believe in themselves. I think they’re good enough and that’s why they’re there in the I-League and in the team. I think all the Lajong players have been raised in the I-League, that’s why they are good enough. It’s good to know that we don’t rely on one or two players to score goals."
Cornell Glen will be the man Sporting Goa will want to keep quiet as his creativity in the last match helped Lajong register another away win, this time over Churchill Brothers. . Taisuke Matsugae, the Japanese playmaker is centrifugal to the chances made by Lajong and his presence will definitely give Sporting a few defensive headache. After being ajudged the "Man of the match" in the last fixture, he will no doubt be expected to recreate his talent against the flaming oranje.
The defense is holding firm for the Shillong side and maintaining consistency. Coincidentally, both teams go into this match with identical records in their last five games, two wins, a loss and two draws each. One can certainly be assured of an entertaining tie when thses sides meet. With nothing less than a win expected in this game, expect an all-out feisty encounter that should keep you fixated for the full ninety minutes.
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