| Roberto Silva (centre) celebrates with teammates in Shillong, on Sunday. Picture: Eastern Projections |
Shillong: A 37th-minute strike from captain Anthony Pereira saw Goan giants Dempo Sports Club clinch a fourth ONGC I-League crown with a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Lajong FC here on Sunday.
Dempo thus secured the title with a match in hand, much to the dismay of the 30,000-odd crowd, which desperately wanted the home side to pick up at least a point as Lajong look to beat the drop in their very first season in the top flght.
And the underdogs did take the fight to the champions-to-be. The volatile game witnessed a keen battle between the Goans and the pride of the Scotland of the East but in the end it was the best team that carried the day.
In the 13th minute Dempo striker Climax Lawrence had to be carried off after sustaining an injury to his ankle after a collision with teammate Roberto Beto Silva. But that was not going to halt Dempos march. Beto incidentally picked up the Man of the Match award.
Although Dempo dominated the match in the first 20 minutes Lajong had their share of chances which they failed to make count.
Dempo have so far logged 53 points from 25 matches while Lajong have 26 points from as many outings.
This is Dempos fourth championship title in six years. In the 2004-05 season, the club won their maiden national football league title. They again won the league in the 2006-07 season, and followed it up with the inaugural I-League title in 2007-08.
The loss poses a serious threat to Lajong who could be relegated from the I-League. Lajong have only one more match to go, against Salgaocar, another Goa club.
Lajong coach Stanley Rozario congratulated opposite number Armando Colaco and his team but it was the relegation battle that was foremost on his mind.
We shall have to wait and watch the outcomes of the other matches involving teams in the relegation zone, Rozario said. One or three points will save us from being relegated from the league.