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I-League 2017: Minerva Punjab FC 1-2 Shillong Lajong FC - Reds keep top three dream alive with crucial away win

Goal.com logo Goal.com 07-03-2017

Shillong Lajong FC returned to winning ways in the 2016/17 I-League after registering a 1-2 victory over Minerva Punjab FC at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Tuesday.

Samuel Lalmuanpuia (28') opened the scoring for the Reds but Kareem Omolaja (37') [Pen.] equalised from the spot. However, Fabio Pena (45+2') headed in late into the first half injury time to regain the lead, which was enough for the Meghalaya-based side to notch up their sixth win of the season.

Surinder Singh made four changes to his side as full backs Kamalpreet and Arashpreet Singh came back into the side. Thangboi Singto named an unchanged lineup from their home loss to East Bengal over the weekend.

The visitors dictated play early on as Yuta Kinowaki marshalled the Lajong army from the centre of the park. Souvik Das played a similar role for the Warriors but he turned wasteful as his ambitious shots earned him nothing.

Kareem Omolaja, deployed as an auxiliary striker rallied off a few shots but he was denied by Vishal Kaith and his own mediocre shooting skills in the first twenty minutes. Minerva won a healthy chunk of corners thanks to their continuous shooting drills but none materialised to break the deadlock.

Shillong Lajong's Samuel Lalmuanpuia opened the scoring almost against the run of play. Bipin Singh found space on the flank to deliver a pin-point cross into the box. Ironically, the shortest player on the pitch got the better of the lanky Minerva back-line and headed in past a hapless Arnab Das Sarma.

Vishal Kaith escaped a booking but could not stop the referee from pointing to the spot as he brought down Victor Amobi in the 35th minute. Omolaja finally came good, albeit from the six-yard spot as he drove straight into the back of the net to equalise.

Fabio Pena gave a reason for Singto to celebrate going into half-time. The Brazilian helped Lajong regain the lead, heading in from Pritam Kumar Singh's cross two minutes into added time.

Deepak Devrani's introduction in the second half gave more intent for Sang Min Kim to go on the offence. The South Korean initiated balls for Omolaja which the Nigerian failed to test Kaith with.

As the hour mark crossed, the game became much physical with various fouls from either side providing ample stoppages in play. Goalscorer Fabio Pena was subbed off for Redeem Tlang as Singto sought to try out fresh feet in quest of killing the game off.

League's top scorer Aser Dipanda released Tlang on the through who looked to chip it over Das Sarma but the former Mohun Bagan 'keeper punched the ball away with fifteen minutes to go on the clock.

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Min Kim pulled off a dramatic goal-line clearance in the 81st minute as Issac Vanmalsawma, buoyed by his recent national team camp call up almost found the back of the net. Shillong Lajong squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to convert late in regulation time as Das Sarma almost left his post half-open.

Baoringdao Bodo's appeal for a penalty in injury time was turned down but the ensuing corner too did not help the Warriors secure an equaliser.

With 19 points, Lajong returned to the fourth spot on the table, leapfrogging Bengaluru who have a game in hand. Minerva Punjab on the other hand, faced a second defeat on the trot after going six games unbeaten as they sit on 11 points, only two places above bottom spot.

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