I-league: Payne brace sees East Bengal past Shillong Lajong

The Australian striker put the Red and Golds ahead in the 8th minute, capitalising on a defensive mistake, before doubling the side’s advantage in the 33rd minute by latching on to an assist from Mohammed Rafique.

East Bengal's Chris Baden challenges for the ball.   -  I-League Media

Kingfisher East Bengal ensured that it continues to remain at the top of the table after beating Shillong Lajong FC 2-1 in a tight match at the JN Stadium in Shillong on Saturday.

The visitor had the match firmly in its control in the first-half only, thanks to a brace by Australian striker Christopher Payne (8′, 33′), but Lajong didn't give up without a fight in its backyard and in-form striker Dipanda Dicka (64′) put one back for them to bring the JN Stadium back into life.

However, poor finishing on the part of the host ensured that the Kolkatans register a rare win in Shillong.

Earlier, both sides started off rather sluggishly but Kingfisher East Bengal soon gained the upper hand following an 8th-minute goal by Payne. A defensive lapse by the Lajong backline helped the visitor draw first blood. Payne slid in to tap the ball to perfection as the 6000-strong crowd stared in disbelief.

Enjoying its best form at home ever, Lajong soon got down to business and almost converted three minutes later when a Dicka header went a little wide of the nets.

Ten minutes later, it was Bipin Singh’s turn to send one sailing over the bar from a distance as Lajong stayed in the hunt. Brazilian Fabio Pena was guilty of missing a sitter inside the box when he slipped and failed to get out to an excellent cross from the right.

After the half-hour mark, Payne threatened to virtually take the game out of Lajong’s reach when he scored his brace to make it 2-0 for his side. Left unmarked upfront, Payne made the most of a curled ball directing it to the far left corner of the net as Lajong custodian Vishal Kaith remained a mute spectator.

However, even though the visitor had pumped in two goals inside 35 minutes, the Reds never looked like out of contention.

Crossing over, Lajong created all the right moves with the likes of Issac and Bipin in the thick of the action. Its effort finally paid off four minutes after the hour mark when Dicka headed one in off a Samuel Shadap cross to bring the host right back into the contest.

Six minutes later, rival custodian Rehenesh TP made an excellent save to tip over a long-range scorcher from Samuel Lalmuanpuia to yet again deny Lajong.

The host made a mess of its last real chance when Rupert Nongrum slammed one over the crossbar after making an excellent run from the centre park.

The result lifts the Red & Golds at the top of the table with 27 points, one ahead of Aizawl FC which beat Mumbai FC earlier today. Lajong, meanwhile, remains stranded at the fourth position with 16 points.

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