Shillong, Mar 14: Lawmali upset defending champions Smit in the semifinals of the 4th Assam Rifles Invitational Football Tournament by coming through 4-1 on penalties at the Assam Rifles football ground in Laitkor today.
This is the first time in the history of the competition that Smit have not reached the final. They were the 2016 and 2018 winners and were runners-up in 2017.
In Saturday’s final Lawmali will meet the team that beat Smit in the 2017 title match – Assam Rifles. The jawans came through as 7-1 victors in the second semifinal over Mawpat.
The first of the last-four fixtures started with Will Marbaniang taking the lead for Lawmali in the ninth minute and it took until the 76th before Smit were able to equalise, which they did through Banshan Nongdhar.
Penalties were required to separate the two teams and Lawmali looked to be the more comfortable at taking spot kicks, coming through as 4-1 winners to book their place in the final.
The second semifinal, by contrast, was a bit of a goal fest. However, there was deadlock for more than half an hour as Mawpat held off their stronger opponents. But Mawpat might have been a little tired after having played their quarterfinal fixture only yesterday and in the 37th minute T Nang Kuki bagged the first goal for Assam Rifles.
H Haokip then doubled the lead in first half stoppage time when a left-footer that beat the goalkeeper.
The goals came thick and fast in the second half, with Lalboi Kipjen opening things up with a penalty in the 50th minute and then scoring again on the hour. Haokip record his brace 10 minutes later with a sublime finish from the right flank, while M Chetry picked up a couple of goals in the final 10 minutes (80′, 84′).
Despite the scoreline Mawpat goalie Nelson Pyngrope did make an impact. A particularly good double block in the second half saw him keep out an expertly taken free-kick before denying Assam Rifles off the rebound.
At the other end Mawpat refused to let the score dampen their spirits and they were rewarded in the 89th minute with a goal, which saw Pynkhlainbok Wahlang feed a through ball to Batiplang Bamon, who beat his marker and fired the ball into the net.
The final between Lawmali and Assam Rifles will be held at the JN Stadium in Polo Ground on Saturday at a time to be confirmed.
(Photo contributed by Assam Rifles. Mawpat are in blue, Assam Rifles in red/black)