AIFF Media Team
SHILLONG: East Bengal and Shillong Lajong were Saturday’s big winners in the 2017/18 U-18 Youth League final round. With their second win in as many games, both teams continued to dominate the competition respectively in Group B and D.
East Bengal kicked off proceedings in Group B with a comfortable win over Minerva Punjab at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium before SAI Trivandrum claimed their first win of the competition beating FC Pune City in the late fixture.
In Group D, FC Goa eased past Aizawl FC 3-0 to keep their semifinal hopes alive before Shillong Lajong FC produced a convincing performance to beat Ozone Football Academy at MFA Turf.
East Bengal 3-0 Minerva Punjab FC
Lalcchanhima, Rahul Dey and Jhantu Prasad were lively from the outset as East Bengal raced to a two-goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes courtesy of a brace by Lalcchanhima (10th and 18th minute). Minerva Punjab skipper Jeakson Singh and Nongdamba Naorem offered the Punjab-outfit some hope on the counter but most of their attempts have been stifled by the well organized East Bengal defence.
The Red and Golds maintained a total control in the second-half but they took their foot off the pedal and despite creating a number of opportunities they had to wait till the 83rd minute to add their third through PC Rohlupuia.
Following their comprehensive win, East Bengal should now be considered as the favourites to make the semifinals from Group B and will need to secure a draw against  SAI Trivandrum to make it out of the group stage while SAI Trivandrum need to win the match at any cost to progress.
SAI Trivandrum 2-0 FC Pune City
SAI always had the upper hand in this match and should have won with a far convincing scoreline. Goals from Muhammed Inayath (30th minute) and Vaishakh V (35th) in the first-half put SAI in firm command and it proved to be a comfortable win as FC Pune City never hinted at any threat of a comeback. Although in second-half FC Pune City had a couple of moments on attack, but the SAI defence was in an uncompromising mood.
FC Goa 3-0 Aizawl FC
FC Goa asserted their dominance for the majority of the first-half by controlling both ball possession and territory. Aizawl, on the other hand, was determined to stem the tide and showed a lot of heart and fighting spirit to stay in the game but all their hard work was undone by a 35th-minute strike by Lalawmpuia.
Aizawl grew in confidence in the second-half and continued to attack in search of an equalizer, but after a spell of possession with little penetration, FC Goa were back on top and added their second in the 63rd minute through Lalawmpuia, who put his body on the line with a diving header from a Vincy Barretto corner that he powered home. Then skipper Princeton Rebello sealed all three points for FC Goa after converting from the spot in the 87th minute. For Aizawl, the second consecutive loss of its group stage has signalled it’s exit from the tournament.
Ozone Football Academy 0-2 Shillong Lajong FC
The opening half lacked quality with both sides giving the ball away too easily, but all was going well for Lajong by the middle of the second-half. Phrangki Buam opened the scoring in the 58th minute and Parvaj Bhuiya added a second seven minutes later. Meanwhile, Ozone upped their efforts towards the later stages of the second-half to get something out from the match, but it proved too little too late as Lajong did well to protect its gains and emerge victoriously. On the back of this convincing victory, Lajong, who have 6 points from 2 fixtures, will be feeling confident about their semifinal chances before facing FC Goa in a winner-takes-all clash on Monday.