Aizawl FC continued their good start to the 2017 I-League, riding on goals by Lalruatthara and Jayesh Rane to beat Shillong Lajong 2-1 at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Tuesday. In the other matches of the day, Mohun Bagan eased past new comers Minerva Punjab FC 4-0 and DSK Shivajians beat Chennai City FC 2-0 to get their first points, and win, of the season.
Aizawl's win over Shillong Lajong was their first league win in three attempts over their north-east rivals, who found their first goal of the season through a Yuta Kinowaki penalty.
Aizawl made just one change to their eleven from the 1-0 win over Minerva Punjab, with midfielder Lalbiakthanga replacing striker Kamo Bayi, while Lajong started with a 4-4-2 diamond formation, Kinowaki playing the midfield anchor ahead of the back four, and Fabio Pena dropping behind strikers Aser Dipanda and Redeem Tlang.
Lajong made the brighter start among the two teams, and in the fifth minute, Tlang was brought down inside the Aizawl box and referee Pranjal Banerjee pointed to the spot. Aizawl goalkeeper Albino Gomes anticipated Pena's attempt well and saved low to his right. Aizawl began controlling the pace of the game by retaining possession more, and that tactic paid dividends in the 32nd minute when the hosts took the lead after left-back Lalruatthara took advantage of a goalmouth melee.
Lajong kept pressing, with the hosts opting to play deep and depend solely on counter attacks, and in the 64th minute Mahmoud Al Amna picked up a loose ball in midfield and outpaced three Lajong players before putting in a delightful cross-field ball for Rane, who put his team 2-0 up, albeit with a slight deflection off Konsham Singh.
In the 85th minute, Kinowaki was brought down inside the Aizawl box by Kingsley Eze and the Japanese midfielder made no mistake in slotting the resultant penalty low to the left of Gomes, registering his first goal against the team he represented in the previous season.
Lajong, who are yet to register a point in the first three matches of this season, begin a sequence of five consecutive home games against Minerva Punjab on January 21, while Aizawl FC travel to take on head coach Khalid Jamil's old club Mumbai FC on January 22.
Mohun Bagan ease past Minerva
In Kolkata, Mohun Bagan continued their perfect start to the league with a 4-0 demolition of newcomers Minerva Punjab at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium.
Jeje Lalpekhlua and Darryl Duffy contributed two goals each, even as Minerva Punjab continued to search for their first I-League goal. Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen handed out starts to Eduardo Ferreira, Sony Norde and Jeje, which enabled Katsumi Yusa to start wide on the right. Minerva Punjab gave an I-League debut to Kyrgyzstan striker Ivan Filatov, with 19-year-old Anirudh Thapa and Altamash Sayed supporting him in midfield.
Ravi Kumar's injury picked up in Aizawl over the weekend meant a start in goal for Kamaljit Singh. It was an unmarked Duffy who would score his third goal of the season off a Norde free kick in the 16th minute, heading home from the penalty spot. Minerva, trying to get a foothold in the game, were then caught out by a burst of speed from the left by Norde.
The Haitian midfielder found left-back Subhasish Bose on the overlap, and his low cross was tapped in to goal by Jeje in the 28th minute. Duffy made it 3-0 following a miscued back pass from the centre of the field, and the Scotsman ghosted in between the retreating Loveday and the advancing Kamaljit to put the hosts 3-0 up.
Mohun Bagan's forward line kept attacking Minerva, though, and in the 76th minute, Jeje chased down a ball -- significantly played yet again from the left - and an advancing Kamaljit failed to gather and in fact only cleared the ball on to Jeje's body and the ball bounced off him into the net for the fourth.
Mohun Bagan travel for their first away game of the season next to Chennai City on January 21, while Minerva Punjab play their fourth and final successive away match to begin their run as an I-League club against Shillong Lajong the same day.
DSK Shivajians record first win
Kim Song Yong and Juan Quero scored goals as DSK Shivajians recorded their first win of the I-League, beating Chennai City 2-0 at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune.
The three points they picked up were the first for Shivajians this year, while Chennai City are yet to score a goal in their maiden I-League campaign. Shivajians started with an attacking 3-4-3 combination, with Rohit Kumar and Jerry Mawihmingthanga offering width to support the likes of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Quero and Song Yong.
Chennai City were more conservative in their selection, packing their midfield and playing only one striker in Brazilian Charles de Souza. The visitors were also forced into a change between the posts, with Shahinlal Meloly replacing Karanjit Singh, who had picked up player of the match awards in both of their previous matches. The hosts were rewarded for their persistence on the half-hour mark through another Quero free kick -- this time curled in towards the far post -- from which Song Yong timed his jump perfectly to head Shivajians into the lead.
Chennai had their best chance of the first half in the 38th minute, when Abhishek Das found himself with space inside the box, but he chose to cut the ball back for Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, who failed to make a proper connection with his attempt, and the ball was collected by goalkeeper Soram Poirei before it could fall for Charles. 10 minutes into the second half, Chennai would make things more difficult for themselves when Echezona caught Song Yong inside the penalty box with a trailing leg. Quero stepped up and buried the ball deep inside the net.
Both teams will be at home for their next games on January 21, with Chennai hosting Mohun Bagan at the Nehru Stadium and another former champion in Churchill Brothers visiting the Shivajians.