Shillong, April 12 (IANS) Shillong Lajong FC held Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw in a fiercely contested I-League encounter here on Wednesday afternoon.
Bagan drew first blood in the 75th minute when Jeje Lalpekhlua found the back of the net with a chip shot to score his fifth goal of this edition of the I-League.
The visitors’ joy was, however, short-lived as barely three minutes later Lajong’s star striker Dipanda Dicka (78th minute) converted a penalty to restore parity. This was Dicka’s 10th goal of the league.
Bagan thus climbed to the top of the standings. They are on 30 points, the same as Aizawl FC, but lead the north-eastern due to a superior head to head record.
Lajong meanwhile, remain fourth with 24 points.
Lajong clearly looked the better side in an exciting first half which saw a couple of chances each go down for both sides.
The in-form Dipanda Dicka got the crowd into the act as early as the 11th minute creating a buzz in the Bagan defence with a bicycle kick that eventually landed safely on Mohin Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Mazumdar.
Six minutes later, Redeem Tlang almost got the breakthrough for the hosts when he unleashed a left-footed scorcher from close range. Mazumdar could block it only partially as the ball took a deflection and crashed into the far post.
In the 18th minute, an advancing Dicka guided a firm shot towards the Bagan goal but Mazumdar made a desperate leap to deny the I-League’s leading scorer.
Bagan regrouped post the half-hour mark with the likes of Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa, Darryl Duffy and Eduardo Soares in the thick of the action.
In the 40th minute, Eduardo’s header of a Sony Norde free kick bounced over the post much to the dismay of Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen.
After the break, Lajong looked to maintain the same intensity and created a few niggles for the Bagan defenders early in the second period.
The deadlock was broken in the 75th minute by Jeje who was brought in for Balwant Singh. A long ball from the midfield found the Bagan forward upfront and he chipped it over advancing Lajong custodian Vishal Kaith to give his side the lead.
While the entire Bagan camp erupted in joy little did they know that the merriment would be curtailed soon.
Three minutes later, Lajong substitute Fabio Pena’s attempt from inside was clipped by the hand of one of the Bagan defenders. The result was a penalty and Dicka made no mistake to convert it from the spot much to the delight of the over 6000-strong home crowd.
The visitors were also a touch unlucky when a Katsumi Yuta scorcher crashed at a grounded Vishal Kaith. An inch on the right or left, and the outcome of the match could have been different.