It was a virtual semifinal between Langsning and Rangdajied United in the U-18 Shillong Premier League yesterday and Bhogtoram Mawroh was on hand to see Rangdajied beat the 2018 champs Langsning 1-0. It also left him hopeful of a good final (if Rangdajied eventually get there) versus Shillong Lajong…

For some years now Rangdajied have been a team with a lot of promise. But they invariably falter at the final hurdle. 

With Langsning needing only a draw, it was Rangdajied who were under more pressure to get a positive result from the match. The match didn’t begin very well for the latter with Langsning’s Ryngkat Ryngksai able to beat his markers and getting a free run at the goal. Some good goalkeeping from Rewardstarfield Shadap kept the score at 0-0. 

Like it was in previous matches, Langsning played with a 4-4-2 with Ryngkat and Mebanteikupar Mylliemngap as the two strikers. Rangdajied, on the other hand, played with a 4-3-3 with Donboklang Mawlong leading the line.

Donboklang was especially very lucky to be on the field after getting a yellow card for a swinging arm. That could easily have been a red card. In the second half he repeated the offence again but this time he escaped punishment. 

It was a keenly contested match and both sets of players were playing with high level of passion. Donboklang, especially, was at the receiving of some abuse from Langsning’s supporters. He retorted which made the situation tenser. Clearly riled, he made some very strong challenges that could have resulted in him being sent off. Of course, nobody likes being abused but the players’ first responsibility is towards their team. Donboklang’s misdemeanour could have cost his team the match. I hope that as he matures he will learn that the best way to answer the opposition supporters is by winning the match and not losing his head.

What was surprising for me was the fact that Oresterwell Langshiang was played as the right side attacker rather than as the deep lying playmaker, which was his role against Nangkiew Irat. I don’t think that’s his best position. Still, he was able to showcase his skills and played some very good passes. Oresterwell was, in fact, highly instrumental in creating the only goal of the match. After being denied by the goal post, Langshiang played a short corner which led to a beautiful cross into the box. Unopposed, George Vannie L Nongrang headed the ball into the net for the only goal of the match. 

Langsning tried to come back into the match and were given an opportunity not very long after the goal when a free ball fell at the feet of their captain, Wadskhem Marbaniang. The resulting shot was a very weak one and was easily gathered by Rewardstarfield. This was not the only chance Langsning wasted. In balance Langsning had the better chances but it was Rangdajied who played a better game.

The match was littered with misplaced passes from Langsning with the midfield, especially, looking very weak. Against Rangdajied’s midfield trio Langsning had Wadskhem and Damanbah Kharthangmaw. Predictably Langsning were unable to dominate the midfield. 

With Ryngkat and Mebanteikupar choosing to stay up most of the time, Rangdajied’s midfield numerical advantage meant that they were also the first to react to the second ball as well. Langsning, in fact, bypassed their midfield on multiple occasions to play the long ball, which was easily dealt with by Rangdajied’s centre backs, led by the goal scorer George. Things took a strange turn when just before the half time Ryngkat went into the midfield and Damanbah played upfront with Mebanteikupar. This curious turn of events was a reflection of the weakness in the midfield department for Langsning. This weakness became more evident when striker Rikmenlang was brought in to play in the midfield with Wadskhem in the second half.

For a team of Langsning’s stature, the lack of midfield options is baffling. It is not a surprise that the two teams who might possibly play the final have strong midfields. 

Rangdajied, especially, have a very special player in Oresterwell. As mentioned above, I was surprised that he was not played through the middle. Though he was still able to show his tricks, for most of the game he was devoid of service and wasn’t looking really pleased. For me the most important attribute of a midfielder is not the trickery but the ability to create chances with his/her passing. Oresterwell can play through balls between the channels as well as easily switch flanks with consummate ease. He is the kind of player that doesn’t come around very often. I myself have not seen many such players, whether it is in the SPL or the Indian national setup. Especially in the heat of the battle when everyone is in a hurry to release the ball, players like Oresterwell can slow the pace and bring some measure of control. 

Rangdajied need him to play in a position where he can have most of the ball. That will not only benefit him immensely but it will help the team as well. As for Langsning, Wadskhem is the only true midfielder in their ranks with other players being wide players or strikers being made to play in the midfield. Even though Wadskhem was able to weave his way past the defence a couple of times, he is primarily a holding midfielder. His forward forays highlighted the weakness in the midfield department for Langsning. It will be interesting to see how the midfield lines up for Langsning in the senior SPL.

There is the requirement for an U-18 player in the starting XI for SPL teams. Figo Syndai was the standout performer for Langsning last year and it will be interesting to see who gets the nod this time around. Among those who might be given the chance to shine is Tremiki Lamurong. 

Coming on at the later part of the first half, Tremiki had a good game and almost got the point for his team. Ghosting from the right, Tremiki got at the end of a great cross and released a shot which was handled by the defender. To the delight of Langsning’s supporters he converted from the spot kick as well. But he was forced to take the shot again (I am not sure what happened) and this time Rewardstarfield came up with a fantastic shot to keep the shot away. The second save especially was out of this world. If a save like that doesn’t win you the match, then nothing will. For me Rewardstarfield was the man-of-the-match. Very soon Langsning got another chance to score from a set-piece but this time it was Mebanteikupar who couldn’t keep his shot on target. 

As the match wore on, Rangdajied looked more assured while Langsning looked progressively ragged. In the end it was heartbreak for Langsing but joy for Rangdajied and an assurance (almost) that somebody new will be the crowned the U-18 SPL champions.

Rangdajied thoroughly deserve to reach the final where they will meet Lajong who have already qualified for it. It promises to be an absolute cracker. Hopefully I can watch the game sitting comfortably in a chair. I am not the man I was a few years ago. My back severely ached as I made my way home after the match. I hope for the sake of supporters the final can be held in the JN Stadium. 

In terms of shape both teams play with three midfielders but the formation is not entirely similar. Lajong play with a 4-2-1-3 while Rangdajied play with a 4-1-2-3. If Oresterwell plays as the deep lying playmaker I think Rangdajied have an edge because although Sangti Janai Shianglong is a good playmaker, Oresterwell’s defensive work is much better. For me, though, the players who are going to determine the outcome of that match will be Kitboklang Khyriem (from Lajong) and Balamlynti Khongjee (from Rangdajied). Because Kitboklang plays as the right back and Balamlynti as the left back for their respective teams, these two players are guaranteed to come up against each other. Being an attacking fullback Kitboklang will want to drive forward as much as possible. 

On the other hand, like he showed against Langsning, Balamlynti is a very aggressive defender who reads the game very well. Though Rangdajied were able deal with high balls played through the middle, they looked really suspect against set-pieces with the ball coming from the sides. Their inability to deal with crosses from set-pieces almost led to goals on at least a couple of occasions. With taller players Lajong can therefore create a lot of problem for Rangdajied’s defence. And if Kitboklang is able to get the better of Balamlynti they could be in real trouble. 

The winner of the Kitboklang-Balamlynti duel will, for me, decide the winner of the final and the identity of the U-18 SPL champions. Who will it be? I am very excited to find out as I am sure many others also are. So, hoping for a great final and cheers!

(TSR photo)

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