Shillong Lajong booked their place in the final four of the 2011 IFA shield tournament with a 2-1 victory over Pune FC in a do-or-die fixture of Group B. Now they will take on group A toppers Churchill Brothers in the first semi final on 28th March. Mohun Bagan had already sealed their place in the semis where they will be pitted against Group A runner-ups Southern Samity.
The fate of group A had already been sealed, but the battle for sorting out group B went on till the last day with the match between Pune FC and Shillong Lajong proving out to be the decider. Pune needed only a draw to go through to the semis whereas the lads from Shillong needed nothing less than a victory. It took three first half goals to rule the match in favour of SLFC with Zenith breaking the deadlock for Shillong in the 27th minute. Lallhum then scored the winner in the first half injury time for Shillong after parity had been restored by Keita for PFC in the 34th minute.
Earlier Mohun Bagan had finshed their group campaign with eight points from four matches and with that had booked a place for themselves in the semi finals but their position in the group was decided only on the last day. They had shared points in the opener against Shillong and also in their last group fixture with Chirag United – with both the matches ending in 1-1 stalemates. The Indian giants picked up their first win against Aryan Club with a solitary goal victory inspired by Ashim Biswas. Later they got the better of Pune FC with a 2-0 win; both the goals were scored by Chidi Edeh.
Meanwhile Shillong Lajong started off their campaign in the 115th IFA shield with two back to back stalemates. They took on Aryan Club in what was also the first match of the tournament but failed to pick up a victory. They avoided defeat yet again in their second fixture, but this time against their group’s eventual toppers Bagan. In both these clashes they had made a comeback from being a goal down to end with one goal apiece at the end of ninety minutes.
Beware Churchill because they just won’t give up
In their third match Racy K. Lalremmawia scripted a dream comeback for The Khasi’s after they had trailed for 80 minutes against Chirag United and were staring down the barrel of the gun. A brace from him in the span of six minutes from 81st to 86th minute made sure that the Lajong boys would not be facing an early exit from the IFA shield. After their win over Pune in the last match they finished tied with the Mariners at 8 points but a goal difference of positive three had given the pole position in group B to the club from Bengal over Shillong who had a goal difference of positive two.
Pune FC was the only team from the group who had kicked off with a win under their belt after they got the better of Chirag United through a last minute winner from Subhash Singh. They were quickly brought down on earth by Mohun Bagan in their very next match when they were handed a defeat by two goals to nil. Pune picked up a crucial win against Aryan Club but failed to perform in the most important match yesterday where they were made to taste defeat from the hands of Shillong with which their dream to enter the knockout stage evaporated.
With only one win to show in the group stage Chirag United finished at a disappointing fourth place in their group. They failed to recover from the last minute defeat suffered against Pune FC in their very first group match and managed to secure five points at their end of all their group matches. Aryan Club who were billed as the minnows of the group lived upto their name and fizzled as the tournament progressed. They came out with only a solitary point after sharing points with Shillong on match day 1 tasted defeats against all other three clubs.
The knockout stage begins on Monday with the semi finals taking place at the Salt Lake stadium. Shillong Lajong takes on Churchill Brothers whereas Mohun Bagan will face the Southern Samity test in. Don’t expect the Mariners to take them lightly though as they would clearly remember that it was this Southern Samity outfit which handed a shock defeat to their arch-rivals East Bengal in their first group match which played an important part in the Red and Gold’s shock exit from the tournament.