Shillong, Jun 9: After nearly a month of fierce group competition, the four clubs that have qualified for the semifinals of the Meghalaya State League 2023 will have it all to play for in a real test of their stamina, tactics and skill when the knockout rounds begin on Saturday.

Rangdajied United (Group B toppers) and defending champions Shillong Lajong (Group C) will play the first semifinal fixture at 1:30PM at the Kiang Nangbah Stadium in Jowai. The second semi will then follow at 3:30PM at the PA Sangma Stadium in Tura between Khliehmawlieh (Group D) and Mawlai (Group A). Both games will be streamed live on the Meghalaya State League’s official YouTube channel.

The semis will be conducted on a home-and-away basis, with the second leg on 13th June. The grand finale will be held at the SSA Stadium at First Ground, Polo, in Shillong on 17th June.

Mawlai are playing their first ever season of the MSL – all the other three teams have previous experience of the mega statewide tournament.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, Mawlai’s Brolington Warlarpih said, “I’m happy to have the Meghalaya State League with us as we never had a tournament like this before with teams from all the districts coming together. It is very good for players because it allows those from rural areas to be more easily scouted by bigger clubs.”

Mawlai played all of their Group A matches on the familiar territory of the MFA Turf in Shillong but will now have to quickly get used to conditions in Tura, where Khliehmawlieh played their Group D games.

“Mawlai have been working hard since the beginning and I have to give a big thanks to the supporters of the club and I hope they will continue to back us on our journey to Tura,” Warlarpih, who captained the club to the Shillong Premier League title last year, added.

Looking to hold onto their crown are Lajong, who started their MSL 2023 campaign later than the other teams because they were participating in the All India Football Federation’s Second Division League, from where they secured promotion to next season’s I-League.

They came through Group C unbeaten and will now face Rangdajied in a double-headed rematch of MSL 2019’s final, which Lajong won 3-0 on penalties. Youth development coach Lekini Suting said that the success they had in the Second Division has given a lot of confidence to the relatively young Lajong squad and the team will look to continue their superb form as they journey to Jowai for the first leg of the semifinals against very familiar¬†opponents.

(File photo of Brolington Warlarpih)

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