Shillong Lajong’s dramatic comeback stun Pune City
Shillong Lajong FC’s remarkable fightback took the steam off FC Pune City, as the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) side lost 2-3 in the pre quarter-final of the Hero Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday. The Stallions thought they had got the match in their pocket after two quick goals from Jonatan Lucca and Marcelinho, before Lajong fought back brilliantly through Abdoulaye Koffi, Rakesh Pradhan and Samuel Lalmuanpuia’s strikes to secure a quarter-final berth.
Pune started on the front foot, trying to make the best out of a watery surface as rains continued to pour. In the 8th minute, Lucca’s shot from the edge of the box was parried away by Lajong’s keeper Nidhin Lal, but just nine minutes later, Lucca was not to be denied. The Brazilian stepped up to take a free-kick and impeccably lodged the ball in the top left corner to open the scoreline.
Again in the 22nd minute, Pune doubled their lead through captain Marcelinho. He latched onto Diego Carlos’ pass and cut back before unleashing a fantastic curler past Nidhin into the back of the net. But Lajong was not ready to hold themselves back and replied through Koffi. Daniel Odafin’s wonderful through ball was picked up by the striker, who managed to create enough space before scoring past Pune custodian Vishal Kaith to reduce the margin.
However, it was still a Pune show as Marcelinho led their assault. His 33rd-minute strike from distance narrowly missed the goal, while his through ball for Ashique Kuruniyan gifted the latter with a great opportunity, but his poor chip was collected well by Nidhin. Thus, with Pune’s one-goal advantage, both the teams entered the breather.
The second period started with Pune again dominating proceedings as Ashique found himself at the end of two brilliant chances, which he failed to take advantage off. The 57th minute saw Carlos curling one from the edge of the box but Nidhin pulled a wonder-save to deny Pune a third, while again saving another just minutes later.
But in the 61st-minute Lajong managed to get the equaliser. Sheen Stevenson’s deflected through ball fell nicely in the path of Lajong defender Pradhan, who did well to slot the ball in past a diving Kaith. Thereafter, the momentum slowed down with both the teams ensuring the other didn’t get an opening to take the lead.
However, with the match seeming to enter extra-time, Lajong were awarded a penalty when Koffi was brought down inside the box by Kaith. Their captain Samuel stepped up to take the spot-kick and efficiently found the bottom left corner. Things got worse for the Stallions as Marcelinho was sent off for a second yellow card offence, with Pune succumbing to an inspired Lajong fightback to miss out on a quarter-final berth.