BY SEIMINLUN KIPGEN
United Khawzim Brothers to take on 2012 champions Southern Sporting Union, Sagolband United face favourites KLASA FC.
Paokhongam vs Napoleon Lunminlen?
The 14th edition of the Manipur State League 2021 will see two highly balanced semi-finals taking place today. Sagolband United will test the resolve of last edition’s finalists KLASA FC of Keinou, Bishnupur and United Khawzim Brothers will go head-to-head with 2012 champions Southern Sporting Union of Singjamei at the Artificial Turf Ground, Lamlong, Khuman Lampak, Imphal.
Interestingly, these will be the first semi-finals since 2014 that will not feature NEROCA FC and this season’s group stage has seen the end of their reign. With NEROCA FC dominating the league from 2014, no side had come close to them except KLASA FC who kept pace with the I-League club since 2016. With the Orange Brigade not making the cut, KLASA FC are favourites to win the league considering the results they have had so far and their organisational structure.
The first semi-final will feature KLASA FC taking on an unpredictable Sagolband United while United Khawzim Brothers of Churachandpur face Southern Sporting Union in the day’s second semi-final.
Having finished the group stage at the top, KLASA FC overcame Muvanlai Athletics 2-0 in the quarter-final thanks to an inspired performance by Napoleon Lunminlen Haokip – he has scored three goals in the last two matches. His presence will be crucial for KLASA today as they aim to reach the final.
Despite showing inconsistent form throughout the league, Sagolband United took everyone by surprise with a 6-0 quarter-final win over 2015 champions AIM. Paokhongam Haokip scored an incredible five goals in the match and the form of the former Zomi FC and FC Zalen hitman could push them over the line.
The day’s second match will be a tug-of-war clash between United Khawzim Brothers and Southern Sporting Union.
United Khawzim Brothers have had a stellar campaign this term right from the start and despite some inconsistency at times, they have showed strong character and produced results when it mattered.
Although they played the entirety of the second-half with 10 men during the quarter-final, they went on to beat KIYC 2-0 and drawing inspiration from that hard-fought win, they will be taking on Southern Sporting Union of Singjamei today in a bid to earn a berth in the final.
After winning the 2012 edition of the Manipur State League, Southern Sporting Union have not looked like repeating their exploits from that year, but have shown great promise in the last couple of years. Despite being written off by many, they managed a last-ditch entry into the quarter-final and overcame AFC Thoubal in a penalty shoot-out to reach the semis.
SEMI-FINALS: January 28, 2022 (Friday)
KLASA FC vs Sagolband United at 11:45 AM.
Southern Sporting Union vs United Khawzim Brothers at 01:45 PM.
Venue : Artificial Turf Ground, Lamlong, Khuman Lampak, Imphal.