Shillong (Meghalaya): Shillong Lajong FC held Gokulam Kerala FC to a 1-1 stalemate in their final home fixture of the ongoing I-League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Friday.
Following the result, Lajong are still stranded at the bottom of the table with 11 points from 18 matches, while Gokulam have accumulated 14 having played one game fewer.
Gokulam drew the first blood through a stellar finish from Marcus Joseph in the 43rd minute before Samuel Lalmuanpia restored the parity for the hosts in the 65th minute. Mahesh Singh Naorem was adjudged the Player of the Match.
Shillong started the game with two changes, goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa had to be rested due to injury from the last game against Chennai City FC and he was replaced by Neinthovilie Chalieu while Kynsailang Kharsong was replaced by Rakesh Pradhan.
Gokulam, on the other hand, tweaked their team with four changes from the last match. Abhishek Das, Felipe De Castro, Arjun Jayaraj and Pritam Singh found their places in the starting eleven replacing Deepak Kumar, Ralph Alfred, Suhair VP and L Haunhar.
Gokulam began on an attacking note and the combination of Felipe De Castro along with Marcus Joseph kept on pressing hard making attempts in short intervals. Full credit to Shillong’s defence line, which otherwise is not known to be the best in the business, ensured that the visitors do not get any clear chance to take an early lead in the game.
Shillong tried to attack through Mahesh Singh and Kitboklang Pale but were unable to create any threatening moment for the visitors. The lion’s share of the possession, however, belonged to Gokulam as they were mostly dictating the game from the midfield.
Gokulam’s efforts finally paid dividends when a wonderful cross from Arun Jayaraj to Marcus Joseph saw the latter finding the back of the net through an exquisite finish in the 43rd minute. This gave Gokulam a much needed 1-0 lead at the halfway mark.
The second half began with Gokulam pressing hard but an alert Shillong defence ensured the visitors do not get another chance to double their lead. Shillong continued their attacks on the counter but they finally got the reward when Mahesh was brought down by Daniel Addo inside the box having earned a spot-kick after the hour-mark.
Samuel Lalmuanpuia, thereafter, made no mistake in finding the much-needed equalizer for the red devils in the 65th minute. The game thereafter saw Shillong making a few attempts but were unable to find the breakthrough to win all three points to come out of the relegation zone.
What would hurt Gokulam most is the marching orders of the Brazilian Midfielder Felipe Castro’s marching orders in the 81st minute. Gokulam still tried hard to breach the Shillong defence but the young Reds stood tall to deny the visitors any further opportunity to score.