'Sunday is about which is the best club in the north-east' - Lalmuanpuia

When Shillong Lajong host Aizawl FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium this Sunday with the I-League title on the line for the latter, one young man who will experience a feeling of déjà vu is Lajong striker Samuel Lalmuanpuia.

It was in this corresponding fixture last year, after all, that Samuela, as his team-mates know him, scored the third of Lajong's goals in a 3-1 win, making him the youngest scorer in the history of the league at the age of 17 and nine months. That record stood for 10 months before Baoringdao Bodo of Minerva Punjab scored this season against Mumbai FC in February, shaving five months off the record for the youngest scorer since the I-League began in its current format in 2007.

"The match was a northeast derby and I tried my best to put my name on the scoresheet, and I did it," says Lalmuanpuia, remembering a season where he made nine appearances, including two off the bench for coach Thangboi Singto.

"He believes in me, and he has confidence in every single player," says Lalmuanpuia of his coach, who promoted him from the Lajong youth ranks to the senior team after a good run of form in Lajong's Shillong Premier League triumph in 2015, registering 10 goals and three assists in 11 appearances.

This year, he has been employed as a withdrawn striker behind Cameroonian Aser Dipanda in Singto's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, and responded with three goals, two of which have led to Lajong wins.

The third put Lajong 1-0 ahead away to East Bengal, before the home side equalised to share the points in Siliguri.

"It is my second I-League season and from last year's I-League, I keep learning from my mistakes to do a better job this session."

Lalmuanpuia hails from the same village as Aizawl FC's captain in the previous season, David Lalrinmuana, and cites him besides his father as his biggest inspirations to have taken up the sport. He also has heavy praise for Aizawl's dream run in the league this season, calling them the 'Leicester of India', but says there will be no love lost on Sunday.

"All are my good friends and my message for this match is that it's not about one state versus another. This match is about which is the best club in the North-east," says Lalmuanpuia.

"Aizawl FC will surely give their best and we will also give our best. We are not going to let them lift the trophy easily at our fortress. We want to win this game and we will put up a tough fight.

"We are united and together, and nothing is impossible."