Federation Cup: Lajong FC through to semis after late strike

The regulation 90 minutes saw East Bengal leading 2-1, forcing the action into extra-time where Shillong Lajong FC scored in the 114th minute off Brazilian Uilliams Silva.

Jubilant members of the Lajong FC team after the victory.   -  AIFF

Shillong Lajong FC scored the equaliser in the extra-time to make it 2-2 in the return fixture of the Federation Cup quarterfinal and reached the semifinals with a 4-3 aggregate, here at the Vidyasagar Stadium on Wednesday. Lajong FC had won its home fixture 2-1 and that helped it wrench out the victory aggregate with the late equaliser. The regulation 90 minutes saw East Bengal leading 2-1, forcing the action into extra-time where Lajong FC scored in the 114th minute off Brazilian Uilliams Silva, who came in as a substitute in the first half.

Lajong FC went into the lead early in the first half through Brazilian forward Fabio Pena, who scored from a penalty. East Bengal restored parity off the second penalty of the match which was netted by the I-League top scorer Ranti Martins.

East Bengal then opened up the lead with a goal from Lalrindika Ralte before Silva found the late goal for Lajong FC. Lajong will play the winner of the other quarterfinal between Mohun Bagan and Salgaocar SC, which will be played at the same venue on Thursday.

East Bengal was surprised by the speed and youthfulness of Lajong FC, which had built its squad around a selection of under-22 boys. Needing a 1-0 scoreline to ensure the semifinal berth, East Bengal defence failed in its objective, conceding a penalty in the 16th minute. Seasoned defender Deepak Mondal handled the ball inside his own box when the Lajong FC midfielder Bipin Singh essayed a cross on the East Bengal goalmouth. The Brazilian forward Fabio Pena scored the resultant penalty to give Lajong the lead in the 17th minute.

East Bengal regrouped quickly and sought to level the scores in the 23rd minute off the same method that gave the visitor the lead – through a penalty. Martins did the job from the spot after his upfront colleague Do Dong Hyun saw his 22nd minute attempt on a Deepak Mondal cross hitting the hand of Nimdorjee Tamang inside the Lajong FC box.

Continuing with the rebuilding process, East Bengal nudged ahead in the 36th minute off a finely coordinated move. Deepak initiated the move running on the overlap and released Sanju Pradhan on the right. The East Bengal midfielder found Hyun inside the box with a cross and the South Korean forward instead placed the ball for Lalrindika Ralte to finish. The East Bengal midfielder replied with beautiful curler from around 10 yards to make it an outstanding goal in the end.

The change of ends seemed to limit the momentum that made East Bengal dictate the proceedings in the first half. The visitor instead earned three good opportunities to equalise. Deepak Mondal made a fine save from the line in the 51st minute on an Isaac Vanmalswama effort to save the host before Uilliams Silva found his 53rd minute header going off the upright. East Bengal custodian T. P. Rehenesh made a good save some time later to keep the lead intact, but the host hardly did anything remarkable to enhance the lead. With two sides locked 3-3 on aggregate, the extra time was brought into play.

The result:

East Bengal 2 (Ranti Martins 23 (pen), Lalrindika Ralte 36) drew with Shillong Lajong FC 2 (Fabio Pena 17, Uilliams Silva 114).

First leg (at Guwahati) Lajong FC 2 bt East Bengal 1.

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