In these days of life in the fast lane where only results matter and not the toil, Shillong Lajong FC were a welcome change. And also an example of how homegrown talent could do without foreign help.
But for better final pass and conversion, which were largely in the hands of Lajong's foreign strikers, the Shillong team looked on top in the first Federation Cup semifinal against Salgaocar here on Sunday.
Inexperience made the difference and Edeh Chidi's persistence was paid with a goal for Salgaocar in the last minute of the second half. Salgaocar now await the winners of Monday's semifinal between East Bengal and United SC in Thursday's final.
But Lajong had their moments of pride. Holding I-League champions Salgaocar is one thing, not allowing them to operate is another. And they revelled in it, rendering the likes of Ryuji Sueoka and Edeh Chidi almost useless. To achieve that in oppressive humidity that is alien to these footballers from the Khasi hills is even more impressive.
Lajong are a well-drilled unit and it shows how they operated throughout the match. If Sueoka and Chidi were on the ball, at least two Lajong players pounced on them. And it was good and fair tackles that saw Lajong bloc Salgaocar, while their midfielders Boithang Haokip and Eugeneson Lyngdoh kept the pressure down the flanks.