A ten men Shillong Lajong side got the better of DSK Shivajians in a 3-2 result at Cuttack on Friday evening, thanks to Samuel Lalmuanpuia's goal in the 92nd minute. The tie witnessed goals from Alan Deory (49'), Redeem Tlang (68') and Holicharan Narzary (64' and 86'), apart from the winning strike.
Head coach Dave Rogers picked up a young side yet again with as many as six U-22 players featuring in the squad against the Reds from Shillong. The Loni based outfit started in a 4-3-3- shape with Rohit Kumar, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Vanlalremkima forming the midfield. As for the side from Meghalaya, Thangboi Singto put in a 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Alan Deory make his way in the midfield along with Rupert Nongrum and Redeem Tlang. Samuel Lalmuanpuia continued operating as the lone striker up-front.
The first half was a dire show of 45 minutes as both the teams failed to finish off their chances. However, it was the side from Pune which was dominating in the middle of the park. Spaniard Juan Quero was heavily involved in the creativity from the Shivajians' end as they continued troubling the defensive forces of Shillong Lajong. However, the loss of Kim Song Yong to a knee injury, saw the men in red's game slow down a bit.
On the other hand, the Meghalaya outfit failed to capitalize from their set-piece situations as Isaac Vanmalsawma didn't get the better of Subrata Paul from any of his free-kick incidents.
It was towards the end of the initial half, just minutes before the half-time whistle, that the spectators witnessed a moment of madness. It was Lallianzuala Chhangte who stormed into the opposition's box as he cut past the first defender. Later, the 19-year-old made space for himself and lobbed the ball at the goal which saw Vishal Kaith dive towards his right but not get any touch on the ball. However, Shillong Lajong were relieved as the ball hit the end of the bar, once on the left and then on the right, on the rebounce. Eventually the delivery, after hitting the right end of the woodwork, bounced out of the goal-line and was finally collected by the nervous Vishal Kaith.
Thangboi Singto's men survived the first half as they succeeded in not conceding any goals, despite living on the edge. The two teams entered the tunnel at the half-time whistle on a 0-0 score-line.
The second half was an action filled 45 minutes. Within just four minutes from the second-half’s whistle, the young guns of Shillong Lajong grabbed the opener. It was Alan Deory who netted the final ball into the net following a mockery made of the Shivajians’ defenders by the Shillong Lajong medios.
But the Punekars had a quick response to the Meghalaya outfit’s goal as the Maharashtra based side netted the equalizer around the one hour mark. Super substitute Holicharan Narzary connected to the ball fed to him inside the box. He kept low, took his time to make space for himself and whacked it above all the defenders and also got the better of goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. Subrata Paul's army had finally managed to level up things following a couple of missed chances inside the box by Lallianzuala Chhangte.
But the 1-1 score-line didn’t last long. Just four minutes after Narzary’s strike, Shillong Lajong scored their second goal of the evening. Alan Deory ran on the right in the hope of finding a man inside the box to connect from his cross while goalkeeper Subrata Paul came ahead to stop the delivery. But the Arjuna award winner failed to collect the ball and an alert Redeem Tlang was quick to get to the ball and net it past the 30-year-old goalkeeper. The lead was retained by Thangboi Singto’s lads.
Things seemed merry for Lajong but little did they know it wouldn't last long. In the 74th minute, Vishal Kaith was given his marching orders by the referee following his tackle on an onrushing Lallianzuala Chhangte. This led to the Reds being brought down to ten men against a side which was hungry for the equalizer.
And just 12 minutes after Kaith’s booking, Dave Rogers’ side found themselves the equalizing goal. Yet again it was Holicharan Narzary on the score-sheet. The Assam born player scored a screamer and put his side on the driver’s seat yet again.
But things took a turn again as Samuel Lalmuanpuia struck the winning goal in the 92nd minute. The tie ended in a 3-2 result which means both sides now have three points each in Group B and the verdict on who shall progress further would depend on Bengaluru FC’s result against Sanjoy Sen’s Mohun Bagan side. But as it stands, Shillong Lajong are still alive in contention to progress to the semi-finals due to their better goal difference (-1) as compared to DSK Shivajians (-3).