Report: Shillong Lajong 2-1 Minerva Punjab
A much-improved display from Lajong saw them move off the bottom of the table as they defeated Minerva Punjab by 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Saturday.
Rupert Nongrum initiated the scoring for the hosts in the 17th minute before Dipanda doubled the lead in the 42nd minute, earning the highlanders their first victory in this edition of the I-League.
Loveday scored in the 91st minute to reduce the deficit for Minerva.
Hungry for points, both teams attacked from the first whistle, with the away side looking more threatening in the early minutes. However, it was the home side who initiated the scoring in the 17th minute thanks to a sublime finish from Rupert Nongrum.
The early goal settled the nerves in the Lajong camp who now slowly got their grip on proceedings.
Lajong could have doubled their in the 35th minute when Shadap's ball in from the right was fumbled by Minerva goalkeeper Arashdeep, with the ball falling to an outstretched Redeem Tlang, who failed to convert the golden opportunity.
The second goal finally came minutes before halftime when Loveday's attempted clearance fell into the path of Dipanda, who tapped the ball into the back of the net.
Minerva were desperate to make amends in the second half but lacked the penetration power to trouble the scoreline.
Minerva's Kyrgyzstani recruit, Ivan Filatov came close to reducing the deficit in the 57th minute, but his shot on the half-turn sailed over the bar.
Lajong at this point of time were happy to sit back and defend what they had. Minerva's persistence finally reaped rewards in the dying embers of the game when defender Loveday Okechukwu scored a stunning goal from the centre of the pitch.
Deep into extra time Ivan Filatov could have rescued a point for Minerva but was prevented by a brilliant Vishal Kaith.
Minerva's late outburst was too little too late as Lajong managed to see off the rest of the nervy minutes of the match.
With the help of this victory, Lajong climbed to the 7th spot in the table with 3 points from 4 matches, whereas Minerva's wretched form continues as they keep flirting with the bottom of the table having garnered just 1 point in 4 encounters.Man of the Match
Man of the Match: Rupert Nongrum
Feverpitch's Man of the Match: Rupert Nongrum