I-League Media Team
SHILLONG: Bengaluru FC beat Shillong Lajong 2-0 in a Hero I-League match at the JN Stadium here on Saturday to lift themselves up to the fourth spot in the standings., thanks to their better head-to-head record over Shillong Lajong, who will drop to the fifth spot with 24 points.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri (26′) and Harmanjot Khabra (49′) were the scorers for Bengaluru, who secured their second win on the trot to make it 24 points from 16 matches. The visitors had beaten another Northeastern side Aizawl FC in a home match before coming for the Shillong tie.
Lajong, meanwhile, will have their task cut out in the remaining two matches if they still fancy a top three finish in the season.
Earlier, Shillong Lajong let go a couple of half-chances within the first 20 minutes to allow the visitors to put up an even battle on the pitch.
Three tall Bengaluru backline–Juan Fernandez, John Johnson and Ranjan Singh, made life difficult for the Lajong forwards, especially the in-form Dipanda Dicka. The trio also almost took the aerial ball out of the equation as far as Lajong are concerned thus restricting the nature of the raids.
In the 26th minute captain, Sunil Chhetri secured the crucial lead for Bengaluru. Chhetri, who was active almost all across the park till now was left unmarked when he moved to the front. A neat ball was delivered just outside the box and the star striker made no mistake in placing it to perfection to the far right net as a valiant Vishal Kaith dived in vain.
Barely six minutes later, Dicka had a great chance to restore parity but his header of an Issac Vanmalsawma free kick missed the target by a whisker.
Dicka missed another half chance in the 36th minute when he failed to reach out for a fine Samuel Shadap cross from the right.
The tall Bengaluru defence prompted SLFC coach Thangboi Singto to bring in Brazilian Fabio Pena straightaway in the second half. However, before Lajong could settle down the visitors doubled the lead in the 49th minute, this time through Harmanjot Khabra who sent a low header past Vishal following a cross from the left.
Two minutes later Alwyn George almost made it 3-0 but his shot went just wide on the left.
Post the hour mark the Lajong legs looked a touch sloppy and the result seemed a foregone conclusion by the 80th minute. It was of little surprise that Lajong, towards the end of the tie, decided to field some of their senior players like Aibor Khongjee and Rocus Lamaze who hardly had any match minutes this season.
The last chance to tinker with the scoresheet came Lajong’s way in the 90th minute when a neat attempt by Issac went just wide.
In the end, it was full three points for Bengaluru FC who’ll now fly down to the Garden City to ply their trade against Abahani Limited Dhaka in the AFC Cup 2017.