Shillong, Mar 16: Lawmali showed tremendous grit and determination and were justly crowned the champions of the 4th Assam Rifles Invitational Football Tournament after defeating the Assam Rifles football team 2-1 in the final at the JN Stadium here today.
Tournament top scorer Lalboi Kipjen put Assam Rifles into the lead in the 29th minute, but Lawmali struck back with two quick goals at the start of the second half. As champions Lawmali were awarded with the coveted trophy and Rs 1 lakh in prize money. The jawans were awarded Rs 50,000 as runners-up. The trophy, cheques and medals were distributed by chief guest and Governor of Meghalaya Tathagata Roy in the presence of Director General of Assam Rifles Lt Gen Sukhdeep Sangwan.
The opening minutes of the final saw the two top teams test each other, but Kipjen was the first to find the breakthrough when a cross came in from the left, which he glanced into the net.
Lawmali almost bagged the equaliser at the end of the first half, but their goal was flagged for offside.
The match was turned on its head, however, at the start of the second half, with Lawmali scoring in quick succession.
First, Will Marbaniang capitalised on a defensive mistake that handed the ball to the No. 16 and he assuredly lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper in the 50th minute.
Barely a couple of minutes later, Marbaniang went deep on the left and chipped the ball looking for Damehun Syih. The Assam Rifles goalie palmed the ball away, but it fell to Syih, who took two touches to control the ball before scoring.
Assam Rifles then went on the offensive, but the Lawmali defenders and keeper Eric Nongkhlaw, who was named ‘Best Custodian’ at the prize distribution ceremony, had their measure. Like Lawmali, the jawans also had a goal disallowed for offside and the thrilling game ended 2-1 in favour of Lawmali.
In his speech after the match Lt Gen Sangwan praised the spectators for cheering both teams so enthusiastically.
“The presence of the Honourable Governor adds legitimacy to the tournament and I wish to remind you all that Assam Rifles will be with you each and every moment,” the DG added.
“We witnessed a wonderful game of football, which was fairly contested by both teams,” the Governor said in his speech. “I am privileged to be invited to this tournament. I have repeatedly spoken about my past association with this beautiful city and I know that this city is passionate about football, has picturesque football grounds and is home to some of India’s best footballers. Assam Rifles is promoting sports in the North East and it is an opportune time for all teams to learn from each other and build lasting relationships. I congratulate the finalists and congratulate Assam Rifles for holding the tournament in a very grand manner,” he added.
Sixteen teams from around the state vied for the coveted trophy in the knock-out tournament, which began on 6th March. The competition was organised by Assam Rifles in collaboration with the Meghalaya Football Association.
(Photo contributed by Assam Rifles. Meghalaya Governor Tathagatha Roy, Lt Gen Sukhdeep Sangwan and other officials pose with champions Lawmali)