I-League: Shillong Lajong braces for Mohun Bagan test

After being on the wrong side of 5-1 hammering at the hands of Kolkata giant East Bengal, Shillong Lajong has stayed back in preparation for another Kolkata giant in Mohun Bagan.

Aser Pierrick Dipandi in action for Mohun Bagan against Churchill Brothers   -  Twitter @Mohun_Bagan


Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan, which is undefeated in its opening three games, faces Shillong Lajong in a fourth-round encounter of the I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.

The last-minute equalizer to squander a one-goal lead at Minerva Punjab in the season opener now seems a distant memory for the Green and Maroons who have the Kolkata Derby win and most recently a 5-0 drubbing of Churchill Brothers last weekend at the Barasat Stadium.

Action returns to the Salt Lake Stadium and head coach Sanjoy Sen did not deem changing home grounds will be much of an issue. “For us every ground is challenging. Our record in Barasat is good. We are always prepared wherever we play. We have to be consistent.”

However, four players sustained injuries in the last game and while Yuta Kinowaki and Arijit Bagui remain indisposed, Sony Norde and Ansumana Kromah still have hopes of making it into the matchday squad despite training through pain on the eve of the game.

Kromah, who scored and assisted a goal in the last game said, “It is a very important match for us. It is not a major injury (that I have). I believe in myself. With the treatment, I feel much better. I believe I can play tomorrow. I watched Lajong's game. They have a good team. They run a lot.”

“Laurence (Doe) is my senior player. When he started playing I was small. He left the country as his style was not liked by national coach. He is an idol”, he commented on facing his fellow Liberia-born player, who plays as a defender for the Highlanders.

Gurjinder Kumar and Shilton D’Silva look to reprise their roles as Nikhil Kadam has been kept as standby to Sony Norde. After opening his Mohun Bagan account with a brace, the spotlight will be on Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka who welcomes his old side and will have mixed emotions as he steps out onto the pitch to play against the team he won the Golden Boot last season with, scoring eleven goals for the Reds.

On the other hand, Shillong Lajong’s stayed back in Kolkata after its 5-1 defeat at the hands of East Bengal last Saturday and will look to make amends to cap off its tour to the ‘City of Joy’.

Praise for the young team came from the opposition camp through Sanjoy Sen who said, “Lajong's 5-1 defeat isn't an advantage for us.  I told my boys that three points are important. We need to be cautious. It was just a bad day in the office for Lajong last game. They had collected 6 points from first 2 matches. They are dangerous from set pieces. They are a well-balanced side.”

Lajong head coach Bobby Nongbet felt the pressure riding on his head. “It's a bit of pressure for us against Mohun Bagan considering how they played against Churchill. In the last match, we conceded two early goals in first and second half which made difficult to come back. East Bengal played well. But if Sony Norde and Kromah don’t play, it is an advantage for us”, revealed the Meghalaya-born.

Aiman Al-Hagri is back fit but Abdoulaye Koffi is unavailable for selection as the onus will be on the Lajong defence to keep the star-studded Mohun Bagan attack quiet. Laurence Doe, who spoke on the eve of the game returned the compliments by Kromah and also praised the 2015 I-League champion.

“For me, Kromah is the most dangerous player. But all are good; they are a very good side. I respect Sony too; he is a very good player. For me, no team is different. They are a big team. They are very good we respect them”, he said.

Only one point separates the two teams and it will be the Mariners who will be licking their lips to jump back into pole position by securing three points from the matchup. 

Kick-off is scheduled at 05:30 PM IST and the match will be broadcasted on Star Sports 2/2HD and live streamed on Hotstar, Jio TV.

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