A fierce and fast paced tie between DSK Shivajians and Shillong Lajong saw the latter snatch a sensational 2-3 win, on matchday 15 of the I-League, at the Shree Chhatrapati Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, on Saturday, 8th April.
The home side went into this tie resting Sumeet Passi and replacing him with Seityasen Singh. Juan Quero reprised his role as creator in chief for the side, while Sasa Kolunija and Shane McFaul formed a familiar central core of the Shivajians. Halicharan Narzary began in attack for the Reds, who'd put five away against Mumbai FC in their last home tie.
Shillong Lajong, arriving into Pune after a testing draw in Goa against Churchill Brothers, made just one change to the set-up in the form of Rupert Nongrum in place of Fabio. The northeastern side sat in fourth place and were in good stead of pulling clear of defending I-League Champions Bengaluru FC in 5th.
They started with Aser Dipanda, making a return to Pune, helming their attack, while promising Indian talents Issac Vanmalsawma, Pritam Singh, Chinglesana Singh, Vishal Kaith and Samuel Shadap reprising their roles.
The home side began in the ascendancy carving the away defence open down the flanks, which would be a theme on the night. Narzary headed a cross from Juan Quero wide in the opening exchanges while Kaith rushed out of the blocks to prevent a certain goal, after the DSK number 10 unleashed a cleaving through ball in the 11th minute that the number 11 and Seityasen nearly latched onto after the Lajong defence collectively went to sleep.
Horror would soon take root at the Balewadi Sports complex as Lajong took the lead through a crafty Issac finish from a loose ball in the DSK box.
Thereafter the away side just rocked back and absorbed the pressure. Narzary's trickery saw him gain half a yard and cross with force into the Lajong box, only for McFaul to smash over the crossbar from under 10 yards out from goal.
The biggest chance of the half came to Pradhan for the Shivajians. The former East Bengal skipper took a punt from some 22 yards out of Kaith's goal only to see the chance rebound off the underside of the crossbar. The rebound seems certain to be converted by Seityasen. However, a Lajong defender Shadap got back just in time to get between the Shivajians' number 29 and a clean shot at goal, earning a goal kick after the ball rebounded off the latter.
The second half saw Singto throw in the towel with respect to Nongrum and replace him with Redeem Tlang.
Almost seven minutes into the second half, Lajong were smiling from ear to ear after scoring their second. Clever control by Lalnunpuia after a great corner into the box saw the Lajong number nine with ample time to turn and shoot past Pal.
Rogers opted to withdraw Juan Quero, to many raised eyebrows, a decision that would later pay dividends.
Milan Singh brought the Shivajians back into the game after a powerful header past Kaith in the 58th minute. That was, however, the tip of the iceberg. DSK Shivajians were on level terms just another 5 minutes later.
Bhumij got his name onto the scoresheet after tremendous work by Seityasen down the left-hand side. After cutting into the box, Singh's ferociously driven ball is withing Kaith's reach. However, the keeper couldn't palm clear. decisively. It looped up into the air and over to the far post, behind the keeper, where the newly introduced number 30 scored his first ever career goal in the I-League to cap a stunning comeback by the 8th placed team.
Pal produced a save reminiscent of the ones that gave him the nickname Spiderman, with a point black acrobatic stop of Dipanada's powerful goal-bound effort.
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A melee erupted at the opposite end of the pitch minutes later, when Jerry Mawihmingthanga's effort hit the underside of the crossbar and rebounded into play. A melee erupted in the away side's box, as the rebound was turned goalward only for a Lajong defender to get a last man touch onto the ball. It looped up again on the line and seemed at the mercy of Bhumij to convert for his second before Chinglensana touched it clear and the Lajong defence finally cleared it away.
The game petered out to what seemed a tame conclusion only for the sting in its tail to veer everyone off course.
Samuel Shadap's late cross was made a hash of by Pal, who ended up affording an easy chance to second half substitute Redeem Tlang. The Lajong number 19 made no mistake a popped into an empty net to all but seal three points fro the visitors.
With the result, Lajong moved five clear of Bengaluru FC, in 5th while Rogers' side remained rooted to 8th. The Shivajains now face a daunting trip to Kolkata and East Bengal, while Shillong Lajong face Mohun Bagan.