Shillong: Hosts Shillong Lajong managed to beat reigning champions Aizawl FC 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Monday.
Koffi (58th minute ) and Jagne (73rd minute) smacked a couple of goals for the hosts before Dodoz halved the gap (90+5th minute) for the visitors in the added minutes.
Going into the match, Shillong Lajong FC`s assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew made two changes to the line-up with Novin and Khongsit replacing Koffi and Deory.
Aizawl FC were without Lalrosanga as a result of him being sent off during their last match against Indian Arrows. Kimkima made his debut in his second Aizawl stint and Valpuia replaced Afghan defender Masih Saighani.
The first half kicked off to a pacy start with both teams playing a high tempo game. However, the loud home crowd, who had braved the evening cold, provided Shillong Lajong with renewed energy and confidence as they started to adopt a more aggressive but cautious style of play which put the pressure on Aizawl FC.
Aizawl were the first to attempt a goal as Dodoz got the ball past Novin in the 7th minute. But Lajong goalkeeper Nidhin was able to pull off a great save.
As the first half progressed, it became clear that Aizawl were biding their time and waiting for the perfect opportunity whereas Lajong were trying to break the deadlock by winning an early advantage through their more aggressive play.
But as half-time approached, both teams were failing to draw the first blood and Shillong Lajong`s R. Tlang and L. Renthlei both had earned themselves yellow cards.
Lajong started the second half with a substitution as A. Koffi came onto the pitch replacing K. Khongsit. Aizawl, on the other hand, began to fan out and attack the Lajong defence resulting in the hosts taking a more delicate approach in their offence in order to build up more on the defensive end.
The game was starting to look more like a tug of war as each team struggled back and forth to beat the other. But the advantage for Lajong came in the 58th minute through a brilliant goal by Koffi who managed to pull off a great header via an assist from Jagne.
As the scoreboard changed to 1-0 in Lajong`s favour, the hosts grew confident enough to unleash an all-out attack on the Mizoram-based team.
Lajong`s relentless attack paid off for the hosts in the 73rd minute when Jagne doubled their lead by beating the Aizawl goalkeeper and sending the ball straight into the back of the net amid cheers of joy from the home crowd.
With eight minutes added, Aizawl`s only consolation came in the form of a solitary goal scored by Dodoz.
With the win, Lajong increased the gap with the champions to three points as they have now 21 points from 17 points, 3 more from the champions who have played 2 matches fewer.
Lajong will host Indian Arrows next on February 23 and Aizawl FC will make a long tour to Chandigarh to face Minerva Punjab FC three days later.