I-League: Lajong faces stern Aizawl test in North East derby

Shillong Lajong FC’s campaign in this season’s I-League has been quite inconsistent. The team started with wins over Gokulam and Minerva FC, but the performance since then has gone down so much that Lajong faces the threat of relegation.

Lajong faces an injury-hit Aizwal FC in a must-win tie at home in the North East derby on Monday.   -  AIFF

Shillong Lajong FC’s campaign in this season’s I-League has been quite inconsistent. The team started with wins over Gokulam and Minerva FC, but the performance since then has gone down so much that Lajong faces the threat of relegation.

Though Lajong sits fifth in the points table, the immunity given to both Gokulam FC and Arrows from relegation by the AIFF makes the race to avoid the dreaded spot an interesting affair. In the end, it has turned into a battle of four teams – Lajong, Aizwal, Chennai City and Churchill Brothers.

It is in this background that Lajong faces an injury-hit Aizwal FC in a must-win tie at home in the North East derby on Monday.

Coach Bobby Nongbet said his team needed to win the next two matches at home to nurture hopes of avoiding relegation. “We are facing a good side in Aizwal but we need to win against it as it will put us in good stead in the match against East Bengal. We have prepared well and used the break to analyse our weakness and we have worked on it. The boys need to pull up their socks and perform in the middle,’’ he said.

Lajong, which drew goalless against Chennai City FC in the last match, has conceded 22 goals in the competition and coach Nongbet admitted that his team has come up short in this department and promised a better show from his defenders in the crunch match against Aizwal.

Defending champion Aizwal’s performance this season has been pretty ordinary which led to the sacking of Portuguese coach Paulo Meneses. However, new coach Santosh Kashyap couldn't arrest the winless streak as Aizwal twice conceded the lead to draw against Arrows in the last match.

Aizwal is currently in sixth spot with 18 points but has played two matches less than its North East rival. Kashyap said the match will be between two equal teams with the day's form deciding the winner of the tie. The coach is worried that injuries to key players have limited his options but is hopeful of a turnaround. “I know we haven’t won in the last seven games but I am not worried as we are capable of turning things around hopefully it will be against Lajong on Monday,” he said.