Shillong Lajong FC beat Rangdajied United in the finals of Meghalaya State League at the Teilang Phawa Stadium in Khliehriat.
After 120 goalless minutes, Lajong won the penalty shootout 3-0 to lift their first ever Meghalaya State League title.
Goalless after 120 minutes
Coming into the match Lajong scored 47 goals while their opponents only conceded 2 goals in the whole tournament. It was a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
The miserly Rangdajied defense stood their ground, blunting the Lajong attacks. However, their forwards were a little reluctant to take shots and lose possession of the ball.
Stephanson Pale, the Rangdajied midfielder, dominated in the middle of the field, while Aiborlang Khongjee marshaled the defense.
With 90 minutes of goalless action, the 8,000-strong crowd witnessed a tense extra-time period. The two teams had already played out two draws in the Shillong Premier League. Now after 120 minutes of football between them, it was time for penalties to separate the two.
Neithovilie Chalieu – the savior
If Rangdajied had planned to win the finals in the penalty shootout lottery, they could not have been happier with the start when Kenstar Kharshong’s weak shot was parried away by the Rangdajied goalie.
Atlanson Kharmaw had the chance to give Rangdajied and early advantage, but he blazed his shot over the bar. 0-0
Tournament top-scorer Phrangki Buam’s well-struck spot-kick found the back of the net. Raikut Buam’s poor effort allowed Chalieu to hop to his left and make a simple save. 1-0 to Lajong.
Kynsai Khongsit sent the Rangdajied goalie the wrong way. Veteran Aiborlang Khongjee had to score to keep Rangdajied in the hunt. The run-up was short, but the spot-kick was powerfully struck. Unfortunately, it was too close to the goalkeeper. With Chalieu guessing the right way, it was a comfortable save. 2-0 to Lajong.
Naorem Mahesh Singh’s well-taken penalty meant that Lajong had an unassailable 3-0 lead. The champions of Shillong are now the champions of Meghalaya.
The tournament produced 233 goals in 50 matches with Shillong Lajong’s Phrangi Buam top-scoring with 14 goals.
The champions were awarded Rs 5 lakh, while the runners-up collected a cheque of Rs 3 lakh.
The youngsters of Shillong Lajong had an incredible year, apart from the two titles, the Under 18s team also won the Shillong Premier League U-18s title.
The gap between the professional teams and the amateurs were apparent. As many as 16 matches saw teams lose by four goals or more. Nonetheless, it was good exposure for the all the teams involved.
The way forward is to create more opportunities for grassroots football to take center stage. The Meghalaya State Association is doing exactly that with the announcement to introduce an U-15 Meghalaya State League tournament.
This could be the breeding ground for the future stars of Meghalaya. Or it could be another place where Shillong Lajong FC can showcase their strength in the region.