Shillong Lajong stunned Aizawl FC 2-1 in their first match of I-League 2018/19 season on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Shillong.
Naorem Mahesh Singh scored a brace to seal three points for his club and Ansumana Kromah scored the consolation for the visitors.
Coach Gift Raikhan fielded four foreign players in the Aizawl FC starting line-up. Ansumana Kromah was paired with Leonce Dodoz upfront. Skipper Alfred Jaryan was deployed in central midfield and Kareem Omoloja started in the central defence.
Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew deployed Novin Gurung and Rakesh Pradhan as the two fullbacks. Lalrohlua and Phrangki Buam were the midfielders with the support of Samuel Kynshi and Lalawmpuia Hnamte from the flanks. Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Naorem Mahesh were deployed up front.
Mahesh Singh broke the deadlock for the home side in 20th-minute with a world-class strike from the edge of the box. After receiving a pass on the right edge of the penalty box from Novin Gurung, Mahesh dribbled past a defender with a flick and curled the ball into the back of the net.
After going a goal down, Gift Raikhan’s side failed to express their quality on the pitch in the first half. Even with four foreign players against an all-Indian side of Lajong, Aizawl looked listless going forward.
Alfred Jaryan came very close to scoring the equaliser within five minutes of the second half when his weak shot from close range failed to trouble Neithovilie Chalieu.
The Aizawl skipper was punished for squandering an easy chance within a minute as Mahesh completed his brace. Another cross from Novin Gurung was tapped in by Mahesh in front of the goal.
Aizawl’s star striker Kromah pulled one back in the 71st minute. The Liberian striker was brought down inside the box and a penalty was awarded to the visitors. Kromah’s dispatched the ball into the goal from 12 yards.
The former I-League champions went all guns blazing after Kromah's spot-kick but Lajong defenders stood firm and protected their goal valiantly to notch all three points.