In the battle for north-east pride, host, United Sikkim FC started with gusto at the picturesque Paljor Stadium, enjoying early possession against Shillong Lajong in an I-League football encounter. However, the home-team, missing the services of Indian international Anwar Ali (injured) and talismanic co-owner, player and interim coach Baichung Bhutia (to a family bereavement), failed to capitalise on all that possession. The match ended goalless draw.

Costa Rican World Cupper (2006) Michael S. Rodriguez, playing as a regista, troubled the visiting defence with his nonchalant ease on the ball and an uncanny ability to play inch-perfect long balls. In the 13th minute Rodriguez’s floater found Nurudeen Salau in space, but the striker failed to control the ball and his feeble effort was deflected for a corner.

Two minutes later, the hardworking Nima Tamang, scurried down the right flank and crossed it in, but his team-mates failed to reach the box on time.

Lajong coach, Desmond Bulpin, summed up its performance at the post-match press conference, as “the centre forwards were awkward but hardworking”.     

Lajong got its first corner as late as the 30th minute, but skipper Renedy Singh’s curler was headed out by Attivi. Soon, at the other end, ‘keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte was left stranded but centre back Sandesh Jhingan’s header, from a Rodriguez free-kick from the left, bounced and sailed over the crossbar, to the dismay of the raucous home enthusiasts.

The second half descended to further mediocrity as both sides failed to show any real desire to go for the kill and the fans, including the monks from surrounding monasteries, were left disappointed. USFC sits at the 11th spot on the table, dangerously close to the drop zone. Lajong is ninth with 12 points.

Other results: At Delhi: ONGC 2 (C. Kensitan, Eric Brown) drew with Sporting Clube de Goa 2 (Ogba Kalu, Seiya Sugistha).

At Margao: Dempo SC 3 (Ryuji Sueoka, Peter Carvalho, Climax Lawrence) bt Prayag United 1 (Ranti Martins).

Keywords: United Sikkim FCI-League

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