Mizoram Premier League Final
FULL-TIME: Chhinga Veng FC 1-1 Aizawl FC
Chhinga Veng FC: Lalromawia (73′); Aizawl FC: Alfred Jaryan (39′), (Aizawl FC win 5-4 in penalty shootout)
It was nearly 11 p.m. at the Lammual Stadium in Aizawl. The cold winter’s night was made worse by rain – especially for the players who had to take a spot kick from the wet penalty spot.
Chhinga Veng FC was one kick away from retaining the Mizoram Premier League.
Lalrinchhana stepped up to complete the task. His teammates had slotted in all four of their spot-kicks in the penalty shootout. More importantly, his goalie, Zothanmawia, had parried away Paul Ramfangzauva’s spot-kick to give Chhinga Veng FC the advantage.
Pressure? Yes, but Chhinga Veng have been the most impressive team in Mizoram this year. They often outplayed their opponents but also had the ability to dig in and hold on to a single goal lead. It was not a surprise that they had lost only lost one match since October 2017.
Lalrinchhana placed his spot-kick towards the right of the goalie. The outstretched hand of Lalawmpuia denied the Chhinga Veng faithful from celebrating.
4-3 with one kick to go.
Aizawl’s Ansumanah Kromah stepped up and confidently shot past Zothanmawia to level the score at 4-4.
Some equate football to a game of chess where the players are tactical pieces, while others equate it to a war. After four months of football, the sudden death shootout would decide the fate of the final battle.
Chhinga Veng’s Hmingthanmawia sent the keeper the wrong way, but his effort struck the crossbar.
When Aizawl defender Lalrinchhana Tochhawng stepped up to the spot, Chhinga Veng’s goalkeeper, Zothanmawia, moved from left to right to put him off.
At the last moment, he moved to his left. It was easy enough to give Lalrinchhana a chance to calmly slot in the ball towards the keeper’s right. The former Chhinga Veng player kept his head down, while his Aizawl FC teammates celebrated winning their third MPL trophy.
1-1 after 120 minutes
The opening stages were an even match up with Chhinga Veng creating a handful of promising build-up plays. However, Aizawl FC grew into the game went on.
In the 39th minute, the deadlock was broken by Aizawl skipper, Alfred Jaryan. A half-clearance by the Chhinga Veng defense fell kindly to the Liberian who struck the ball first time to give his team the lead.
Chhinga Veng threw in Lalromawia and Lalrammawia in the second half to bolster their attack, while Aizawl was content with defending their one-goal lead.
In the 73rd minute, Chhinga Veng broke through. A freekick from the halfway mark was met by Chhinga Veng’s top scorer, MS Dawngliana. He failed to bring the ball under his control but managed to knock it into the path of Lalromawia. The substitute slammed home the equalizer.
Absolute delirium in the stands. It was game on.
Aizawl FC did have a couple of chances to win the game in normal time, but Zothanmawia was at hand to save his team.
In extra time, Aizawl FC looked more likely to find the winner. Ansumanah Kromah nearly finding the net from the edge of the left-hand side of the box, while some wayward finishing by Rochharzela ensured that the match ended in a stalemate.
In the end, it came down to penalties. Chhinga Veng looked all set to win it when they were 4-3 up. Lalrinchhana had his spot-kick saved and Hmingthanmawia struck the crossbar. Aizawl FC was not going to let this slip.
Aizawl FC skipper Alfred Jaryan was adjudged to be the Player of the Tournament, Jaryan was also adjudged as the best midfielder while his team won the Fair Play Award.
Mizoram Police FC striker Lalfakzuala was the top scorer with eight goals.
The other individual awards went to Chhinga Veng FC – PC Laldinpuia (Best Defender), T. Zothanmawia (Best Goalkeeper), and MS Dawngliana (Best Forward).
What lies ahead
The next season of the MPL will feature FC Venghnuai in place of Bethlehem Vengthlang FC. The bottom-placed team was relegated to the second division. Ramhlun North FC stayed up for another season after a 5-2 aggregate win over Kanan FC in the playoffs.
Champions Aizawl FC will continue to focus on the I-League and aim to stay out of the relegation spot. They are currently on six points after nine matches.
Chhinga Veng FC will participate in the I-League Second Division 2019 and aim to qualify for the I-League.
Will the two teams end up in the I-League? Or will there be no Mizo teams in 2019/20 season?
We will know the answer by March 2019.