SPL 2023: Rangdajied edge Lajong for place in final

Shillong, May 7: Rangdajied United FC became the first team to reach the final of the Shillong Premier League 2023 as they edged Shillong Lajong FC 1-0 in their semifinal at the SSA Stadium at First Ground, Polo, here on Tuesday.
Arlangky Nongsiej scored from the penalty spot in the 31st minute in what was the only goal of the intense knockout match. In the previous meeting between these two sides, Rangdajied defeated Lajong 2-1 in the round-robin stage on April 13.
Rangdajied will know who their opponents will be in Saturday’s final tomorrow when defending champions Mawlai SC take on Langsning FC in the second semifinal. That match will also kick off at 3:15 pm at the SSA Stadium.
Tuesday saw Rangdajied play their classic game – not too many hurried attacks, consistent possession and few risks – and it paid off against a Lajong team that were in a massive hurry to strike but who did not have the accuracy to pull it off.
Henry Nongneng fouled Robert Khongjoh in the box on the left flank, leading the referee to award a penalty. Arlangky, a defender, stepped up to convert it for his second penalty goal of the season. He sent the ball in low to the left, with Lajong goalkeeper Wanteilang Malngiang going the other way.
Earlier, Dibormi Kassar had a second-minute strike blocked by Henry, probably one of the few times that Rangdajied had a shot on target in the entire match.
Lajong kept trying to get the ball to Deibormame Tongper (the season’s top scorer with 8 goals) at the front but he had at least three attempts go wide in the first half, including two before Rangdajied got their goal.
Rimankhraw Kharumnuid also had a shot put out for a corner by RUFC goalkeeper Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew.
The second half saw Lajong become increasingly erratic, with their passes poor and touches loose. Rangdajied, on the other hand, were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, rarely getting the ball deep into their opponents’ half.
A last bit of action saw Henry head wide from a corner during the five minutes of stoppage time, which summed up the type of day the Reds had.
Wednesday promises to be another keenly fought contest. While Mawlai are not the all-dominant side they were in SPL 2022, they have lost just one match this season (to Rangdajied 2-1 on 26 April). They have also beaten Langsning already, winning 1-0 on 28 March.
Langsning, however, were a different side at the start of the season. They first lost to Lajong 3-2 in their opener on 22 March before going down to Mawlai, at which point they were at the bottom of the points table. Since then, though, they have been on a five-game winning streak as the team has begun to gel well together under the tutelage of coach Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh, who won the SPL in 2022 with Mawlai.
Langsning and Mawlai later swapped coaches, with Hering Shangpliang and Syiemlieh taking each other’s places.
Despite Langsning’s upswing in performance, Mawlai will be a huge challenge as they have a strong set of players, many of them with experience of winning SPL 2022. Add to that the title-winning experience of Shangpliang and their passionate fans will be confident of further glory.

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