With the season fast heading towards its finish it was a crucial game for both sides. While the Arrows were looking to return to winning ways on home turf, the northeast outfit were desperate to get out of the relegation mire.
The first half was a scrappy affair with few clear cut opportunities to speak off. Perhaps not a surprise, given that both teams were on a long slide. Both also failed to settle on a tricky pitch in Kolkata as the ball bounced about awkwardly at times.
The first real chance came the way of the visitors after Sushil Singh got himself onto a low cross from the right but Soram Angamba made a comfortable save. At the other end the long throw-ins from Vishal Kumar were causing havoc in the Lajong defence and off one such throw-in in the 10th minute, panic again ensued in the box but they somehow survived and managed to hack the ball clear.
Throughout the game the Arrows preferred to sit deep and hit the visitors on the counter and the northeast side struggled to make much headway in front of the hosts’ stubborn backline. Singh had another half-chance on 36 minutes, but Vishal Kumar did just enough to deny him from close range from an accurate corner from the left.
The Arrows always looked the more likely side to score and they found the only real moment of quality in the game in the 39th minute. Following another swift counter, striker Seminlen Doungel threaded through a great through ball to pick out Prabir Das in the box and the midfielder produced a composed finish to give his side the lead.
Shillong Lajong boss Desmond Bulpin made two tactical changes at the end of the first half, bringing on Japanese striker Taisuke Matsugane and Renedy Singh in place of Jibon Singh and Friday Gbeneme. But the changes failed to produce any immediate results. As a result, Arthur Papas’ side went into the break with a narrow 1-0 advantage.
The one major flashpoint in the second period came right at the beginning, when on 54 minutes, the ball came to Lajong’s Japanese hitman Taisuke in the box, but he shot wide from close range.
Following that squandered opportunity the match settled back into its earlier pattern and there were no real chances of note for either side. The visitors were persisting with their root one style football and when that did not work they were severely lacking in ideas and seemed to have no plan B. Meanwhile, Prathamesh Maulingker was a towering presence at the back for the hosts and they looked more than happy to hold what they had.
It was a game full of industry and endeavour but was woefully short of quality in the final third and with only 14 goals in all their games so far, it wasn’t a surprise to see Bulpin’s men coming out second best in this one.
In the 88th minute, Taisuke was through on goal but was flagged for offside. The Arrows broke swiftly and substitute Tirthankar Sarkar forced a good save out of Ralte in the Lajong goal.
Deep into the second half injury time, the impressive Taisuke again drifted into the box from the left and sent in a good cutback to the edge of the area but the shot was a tame one and did little to trouble the solid Arrows defence.
With the win, Pailan Arrows move onto 18 points from 16 games and are in 8th position. Shillong Lajong are just a place below them with 15 points from 17 games.
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