I-League 2017: East Bengal overcome Shillong Lajong courtesy of brace from Chris Payne
The visitors had the match firmly in their control in the first-half only, thanks to a brace by Australian striker Christopher Payne (8′, 33′), but Lajong were not the ones to give it up without a fight in their 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 hosts 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 visitors draw first blood. Payne slid in to tap the ball to perfection as the 6000-strong crowd stared in disbelief.
Enjoying their 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 visitors 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. Their efforts finally paid off four minutes after the hour mark when Dicka headed one in off a Samuel Shadap cross to bring the hosts 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 hosts made a mess of their 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 who beat Mumbai FC earlier today. Lajong, meanwhile, remain stranded at the fourth position with 16 points.