Shillong: Defending champions Dempo FC settled for a goalless draw with Shillong Lajong FC in an I-League match at J N Stadium, here on Sunday. It was the home side that had several chances to convert but the absence of striker Sushil Singh left them with no option but to fight for a draw.
Lajong's foreign imports Ebi Sukure and Friday Gbeneme failed at the front miserably on Sunday as both missed several open opportunities. In the first half they missed as many as three chances. The visitors then had their chances to break the hearts of the home fans especially in the 15th minute but Samir Naik put the ball wide of the goal.
Lajong created a good chance in the 25th minute when Lalchuanmawias cross found Friday but the former Mumbai FC striker failed to convert the chance. In the second half Lajong Coach, Desmond Bulpin made three significant changes in the match, bringing in Jacob for Lalramluaha in the 46th minute, Renedy Singh for Ebi Sukore in the 61st while Boithang replaced Jibon Singh in the 79th minute.
The entry of Renedy and Jacob saw the Reds digging in further into the Dempo defence, and Renedy almost made an immediate impact, when he came quite close in the 62nd minute but his shot missed the left angle by a few inches. Lajong players tried hard as they went all out for the lead, but the reigning Champions countered in almost equal fashion but were kept out by some superb defending by the Lajong backline.
Dempo SC also used all of their substitutions, bringing in Selwyn Fernandes for Mahesh Gawli in the 46th minute, Joy Ferrao for Anthony Periera and Nicolav Borges for Indian international Clifford Miranda in the 87th minute. The visiting side looked threatening on a few occasions in the closing stages of the match, but never really looked like converting the chances, as the match eventually fizzled out to a goalless draw.
The absence of Debabrata Roy, fellow-defender Cresson Antao, Ryuji Sueoka and the extreme cold weather condition cost them two points. Having played seven matches without a win, a one point sharing with Dempo is as good for coach Desmond Bulpin as a win.
Their last victory was at the end of November last year in the 3-1 victory over Pailan Arrows at home. Sunday's draw meant that Lajong would be one point above Salgoagar FC at number 11 in the table and two points above bottom ranked Sikkim United FC while Dempo FC would be trailing table topper Churchill Brothers by seven points.
At the post match conference, Armando Colaco said he is happy to take home a point adding that with more than 10 matches to go, the club has chances to retain their title. Lajongs coach, Desmond Bulpin, on the other hand said his boys played well for the fact that they played goalless against defending champions and big clubs like Dempo FC.
"A draw is a fair result," he said, admitting that the absence of a formidable striker for the team cost them a game. Bulpin said he hope to earn full three points in his next two matches to get his team to the middle of the table. Lalchhuanmawia was awarded the Man of the Match for his stellar display on the field.