Pressure on Lajong in Youth League showdown against Blasters

An unbeaten Shillong Lajong and Kerala Blasters will face-off in the final of the U-18 Youth League.

Lajong players celebrate a goal during their tie against East Bengal on Thursday.   -  AIFF

Shillong Lajong and Kerala Blasters will take centre stage in the final of the AIFF U-18 Youth League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday.

Both unbeaten teams will be contesting in its first-ever final in the tournament. Although, both teams have faced a series of obstacles during its run in to the decider, it is Lajong which will enter as the favourite.

Lajong defeated a strong East Bengal 2-0 in the semifinal on Thursday, whereas, Blasters managed a hard-fought 2-1 win in the other last-four encounter against SAI Kolkata.

Nonetheless, despite Lajong's commanding performance against East Bengal the final seems evenly poised as the Blasters proved equally threatening on the counter and relatively solid at the back.

With the likes of Adarsh AS, Badusha TT and Abdullah KS in the ranks, the Southern outfit will always pose a goal threat but the same can be said of Lajong, for whom Donboklang Lyngdoh and Phrangki Buam have been in exceptional form.

Lajong coach Bobby Nongbert has prepared his troops well, identifying the key strengths of his personnel and setting up a system to maximise the team’s effectiveness.

Going into the final, Lajong's strategy would be simple as they will be looking frustrate the Blasters by keeping things compact and cutting off space before using speed on the transition in the form of Donboklang, Phrangki and Parvaj Bhuiya who all have the capacity to stretch Kerala’s defense.

From the Blasters perspective, reaching the final is somewhat of a surprise given the team is making their first ever U-18 Youth League appearance. For that achievement, immense credit must go to coach Renjith Thittayil Ajithkumar as his understated yet demanding approach appears to have coaxed the best out of his squad.

The pressure will be very much on Lajong to clinch the title in its backyard. For the Blasters it’s all about creativity and a sense of energy in the front-line, especially when you consider that a draw will go straight to penalties.

The final is scheduled for a 4.30 pm kick-off.

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