Margao: Despite being reduced to 10-men, defending champions Salgaocar Sports Club warded off the challenge from visitors Shillong Lajong, defeating them 2-1 in a round 13 I-League match, on Wednesday.
Salgaocar, who were reduced to 10 men in the last 10 minutes when Nicolas Colaco picked up his second yellow after bringing down Iyikwobe C Christopher from behind on top of the box, scored through Ryuji Sueoka (15th) and Ishfaq Ahmed (52nd).
The visitors pulled one back through Iyekwoba C Christopher`s solo effort in the 39th minute.
The win takes Salgaocar to 19 points, the same as Air India, but above the Mumbai-based side on account of their better goal difference.
The home team played Elijah Junior Obagbemiro in the starting lineup in place of Edeh Chidi, who failed to impress and was replaced by the latter in the second half.
Salgaocar started well with Ryuji Sueoka spearheading the attack as he combined well with Francis Fernandes on the right and after stitching a few good moves in their initial domination, took the lead in the 15th minute.
Nicolas Colaco, from the right, relayed the ball to Francis Fernandes who sprinted down the right flank and sent a perfect cross to Sueoka.
Sueoka, who saw his first attempt being saved by the rival custodian, shot home from close.
The visitors played a forceful game, which earned them three yellow cards, and took time to settle down.
Gradually, taking over the reigns from the home team, Lajong after coming close to scoring twice restored parity in the 39th minute through a solo effort from Christopher.
Iyikwoba Christopher picked up the ball from top of the box, took two rival defenders in his stride, and drew keeper Karanjit Singh out and slotted the ball into the empty net to have both the teams tied 1-1 at half time.
Changing over, Salgaocar who held more of the ball possession went ahead again in the 52nd minute through a counter move.
Ryuji Sueoka, from the right, sent a high cross into the box for Chidi who failed to head in but Ishfaq Ahmed, who was following the move, slammed the ball into the net.
Ishfaq could have killed the match midway in the second half but he shot out after getting past a rival defender off a pass from Chidi.
Salgaocar were reduced to 10 men, 10 minutes before the end when Nicolas Colaco earned his second yellow which helped the visitors to take an upper hand.
Pressing for the equalizer, Lajong were all over the hosts and had two chances but substitute Seikhohao Tuboi and Boithang Haokip failed to cash in missing the target from inside the box.