Mawlai’s reign continues with victory in SPL 2023 final over Rangdajied

Shillong, May 11: It was a double delight for Mawlai SC as they were able to defend their Shillong Premier League title by defeating Rangdajied United FC 1-0 in the final of SPL 2023 on Saturday.
Donlad Diengdoh (26′) scored the only goal of the game with a powerful header to seal the result at the SSA Stadium at First Ground, Polo, despite Rangdajied throwing everything they could and even being denied by the crossbar in the second half.
Rangdajied were left to rue their missed chances as they were consigned to the runners-up spot for a second consecutive season as they had also finished behind Mawlai in 2022.
Mawlai received the champions’ trophy and cheque of Rs 3 lakh from the chief guest, the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya, Shri DP Wahlang. The runners-up cheque of Rs 1.5 lakh was presented to Rangdajied by the Chief Engineer of the State Sports Council Meghalaya, Shri BM Syiem. Other dignitaries present on the occasion included Meghalaya Football Association President Shri H Dohling, Shillong Sports Association President Shri Eugeneson Lyngdoh and other senior officials of the SSA.
The highly-anticipated match saw the SSA Stadium packed to the rafters with fans, with the supporters of Mawlai standing out with their bright yellow flags. The atmosphere was electric from the first whistle and the action on the pitch did not disappoint.
Donlad had missed the semifinal through injury and there were doubts whether he would be fit enough for the grand finale but he made it into Mawlai’s starting line-up. Despite being the danger man, he found himself with plenty of room to head in a corner untroubled by defenders for what was his sixth goal of the season. The goal also made him the second-highest scorer this year, behind only Shillong Lajong’s Deibormame Tongper (8 goals).
Rangdajied were determined to come back at Mawlai in the second half and they made two attacking substitutions to try and do that – bringing on Dameki Khongstia and Wanlamsuk Nongkhlaw at half time.
The pair were involved together in the 78th minute when Dameki whipped in a cross but Wanlam was just out of its reach. Soon after, Aibiangmame Nongneng had a free-kick and fired it through the wall but Mawlai goalkeeper Siwel Rymbai was right behind it.
Seven minutes of stoppage time were added on by the fourth official and this is where RUFC came inches from an equaliser. Wanlamsuk dived forward to meet a cross and the header beat Siwel, hit the crossbar and came down. The No. 11 was convinced it had crossed the line but the assistant referee was in the best position and play continued until the final whistle a couple of minutes later.
The final was an absolute thriller of a contest that brought the entire 2023 season of the SSA’s football pyramid to a resoundingly successful conclusion. The 2024 season will soon begin with the Fourth Division, the lowest rung on the pyramid.

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