Panchkula, Chandigarh: Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC were stunned by the young Shillong Lajong FC on Friday after facing a 0-1 defeat at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula. Shillong Lajong, who are placed at the bottom of the Hero I-League points table, have lodged only their second win of the season with this result.
Super-sub Naorem Mahesh Singh scored the winning goal for Lajong in the 84th minute. This is the eighth consecutive game for the defending champions where they haven’t been able to secure a win for themselves in this season. Lajong goalkeeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa was adjudged the Hero of the Match.
Minerva, who haven’t been able to secure a win for themselves in their last seven encounters, were visibly desperately looking for three points. As a result, they kicked-off with an attacking intent and that showed clearly in their game as they were constantly pressing the young Shillong Lajong FC at short intervals.
The hosts, who made some interesting moves through both sides of the flank, couldn’t really find success partly due to lack of a good finish, and partly due to the observant and strong defence line of Lajong. Minerva, however, managed to break into the opposition box a few times, but couldn’t really make the most of all the opportunities that they were presented with.
On the other hand, while Shillong made a limited number of moves but their attacks were more organised. However, their problems were similar to Minerva – lack of a good finish. Shillong, however, got very close to taking the lead when an attempt from Khongsit from inside the box into the Minerva goal was beautifully defended by the hosts in the 31st minute. This was the closest chance that came by for the visitors who otherwise couldn’t really create any clear chance to score. The first half came to an end with both sides unable to break the deadlock.
The second half began with defending champions Minerva pressing hard from the first minute, but full credit to Lajong’s goalkeeper Lachenpa and their defence for not providing any clear opportunity to the hosts. Lajong, on the other hand, made some organised efforts in their attacks and looked promising as well. However, lack of creativity in the final third eluded them from taking a lead.
In the 56th minute, Shillong brought in Naorem Mahesh Singh, replacing Samuel Lalmuanpuia and that brought around a sea change to the vistors’ attacking style. Mahesh in combination with Khongsit made continuous attempts, finding ways into the Minerva box, but their lack of a good finish barred them from taking the lead.
Shillong really came close to score again in the 75th minute when Kitboklang Pale made a brilliant run from the centre line to play a beautiful pass to Khongsit inside the Minerva box, but to Shillong’s disappointment, the latter could not contain his shot, which went wide, denying the young visitors another clear chance to score.
Minerva, who were attacking at short intervals, seemed scattered as most of their attempts were nulled by Shillong defenders. Shillong’s attacking game, which was already troubling the Minerva defence, finally yielded results in the 84th minute when an attentive Naorem Mahesh Singh finally found the back of the net, scoring on a rebound from Minerva goalkeeper Nidhin Lal. The rebound was a result of a shot from Sheen that Nidhin saved but failed to collect safely.
Shillong attempted to double their lead in the 88th minute when Pale’s attempt was beautifully saved by Nidhin Lal. The game, thereafter, saw the hosts trying hard to equalise, but the young Shillong defenders prevented that.