Lajong aim to end on a high

Football: Federation Cup:

Lajong aim to end on a high

Steering the ship East Bengal’s Bhaichung Bhutia (right) touches up on his dribbling skills during a practice session.PTI

An AFC Cup berth is also at stake in the summit clash at the Nehru stadium, which is likely to be full to the brim with most of the crowd coming from Shillong, the home of Lajong.|

For East Bengal, victory will be their sixth triumph, their latest being in 2007 in Ludhiana, but more than that, the title would be a huge boost to their sagging fortunes after a string of disastrous results starting from the Durand Cup debacle in September last year.
On the other hand, Lajong can become the first team from the North East to be crowned winners of the country’s top league-cum-knockout tournament, and that too in their debut season.

East Bengal had not been in the best of form during the group matches but peaked in the semifinal on December 31 when they beat arch-rivals and defending champions Mohun Bagan 2-0 to take sweet revenge of last year’s semifinal loss.
Lajong are on a high after beating title favourites Dempo in the group stage and I-League champions Churchill Brothers in the semifinal.

They will also not be overawed by their more fancied rivals as they had beaten the Kolkata giants in the Durand Cup.

The Shillong side, though, will be missing at least three key players in captain Aibor Khongjee due to injury and two foreign recruits in James Giblee and Daniel Bedemi due to double bookings.

The East Bengal defence hasn’t not conceded a single goal in the tournament but Uga Okpara and Nirmal Chhetri will surely be tested by in-form Lajong strikers Sheikhohao Tuboi and Anil Gurung.

Lajong coach Stanely Rosario has reconciled to missing key players but said his side as underdogs had nothing to lose. “Missing some key players is a big worry. But we will have to handle it. It is a big match and there are a lot of expectations. We have nothing to lose,” Rosario said.

Rosario’s counterpart, Philipe De Ridder, felt his side could benefit from the absence of key players from their rivals’ line-up but said it would boil down to which side played better football.

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