Daniel Goncalves emerged the saviour for Shillong Lajong as the defender’s last-minute goal helped his side secure a 1-1 draw in the I-League 2023-24 match against Rajasthan United at the Deccan Arena in Hyderabad on Sunday, December 3, 2023.
Rajasthan United had taken the lead in the ninth minute through Richardson Kwaku Denzell. But Lajong staged a fight back and Goncalves scored in the last minute to help his side take home a crucial point.
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Lajong came into the match on the back of three consecutive wins against Gokulam Kerala FC, Delhi FC and TRAU FC. Along with the Mohammedan Sporting, they were the only side to remain unbeaten in the I-League. The draw meant that their unbeaten streak remained intact. Lajong occupy the fourth spot in the standings with 13 points from seven matches with three wins and four draws.
For Rajasthan United FC, this match was a missed opportunity. Before this game, they had experienced a challenging phase. They lost two matches and drew one in their last three outings. This match offered a chance for them to return to winning form and better their position of 12th in the points table.
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Rajasthan United took the lead in the 9th minute with an impressive goal. The play began with C Lalchungnunga’s dynamic run into the penalty box before he passed the ball to Richard Gadze. However, the Ghanaian forward sold a dummy to deceive Lajong’s defenders and it allowed the ball to reach Richardson Kwaku Denzell. The Ghana striker expertly controlled the ball and then fired a powerful shot to find the back of the net. This strike increased Denzell’s goal tally to four in the I-League.
Rajasthan United could have extended the lead in the 33rd minute. Jefferson De’oliveira headed a corner in the path of Gadze. However, Lama came off his line to avert the danger before Gadze could connect with the ball.
Rajasthan again had an opportunity in the second half but, this time, Lama reacted well. He successfully punched away a shot from Vanlalzahawma, which then hit the post, resulting in a corner for Rajasthan.
Lajong also created several scoring opportunities and their persistence paid off in the additional minutes of the second half. As the match approached its climax, the pressure seemed to affect the Rajasthan United defenders, leading them to concede a free-kick on the left flank. Hardy Cliff Nongbri capitalised on this opportunity, delivering a well-placed, floating ball into the area. Daniel Goncalves, showing great skill and awareness, managed to head the ball into the goal, despite facing away from it. This impressive strike not only secured a draw for Lajong but also sparked jubilant celebrations among the players.