Shillong, Jun 10: Shillong Lajong seized a huge advantage over Rangdajied United by winning the first leg of their Meghalaya State League 2023 semifinal 3-0 at the Kiang Nangbah Stadium in Jowai today.

Contrastingly, it was a whole lot closer in Tura where Mawlai edged Khliehmawlieh 1-0 in the second semifinal.

The highly-anticipated knockout round will be played over two legs, so both losing teams from today will get a chance to overturn the deficit in the respective return fixtures on 13th June.

There was a terrific turnout of spectators at both venues today, which was especially wonderful as none of the teams were local to either Jowai or Tura but the fans just wanted to see some good football.

In the 1:30PM kick-off, Lajong’s goals came through Henry Ford Nongneng (17′), Hardy Cliff Nongbri (55′) and an own goal by Arkwis Wanniang (82′).

Nongneng scored with a powerful header to put the defending champions in front less than a quarter of the way through the game but they had to wait nearly 40 minutes before Nongbri bagged their second.

It was a bad mistake by goalkeeper Banshanlang Sten that led to the goal, with Nongbri sending a free-kick into the box. He had not intended to go for goal but Sten rushed out to try and punch it away, missed the ball completely and it bounced across the line, despite Apborlang Kurbah’s attempt to clear it with a hook.

It got even worse for the Group B toppers, as they were reduced to 10 men in the 78th minute when Aibiangmame Nengnong was sent off for a second yellow card offence.

A little while later, Wanniang’s own goal put the nail in the coffin of the first leg. Moving up the right, Sangti Janai Shianglong tapped the ball towards his left looking for a team mate but it came off the defender’s boot and ended up going over Sten’s head and into the back of the net.

Rangdajied had chances of their own – most notably a couple of Knerktilang Buam strikes that rattled the woodwork – but they were well below the level of Lajong. RUFC must now find something extra special if they want to get back into the contest in the second leg in Mawkyrwat on Tuesday.

Over in Tura, the gorgeous PA Sangma Stadium hosted a match for the first team in the MSL and Khliehmawlieh and Mawlai relished playing on the natural turf in front of the sizeable crowd, which included Tura MP Agatha Sangma as the chief guest.

The fans witnessed a good first half performance from Khliehmawlieh, who held off their more-fancied opponents in a goalless first half thanks to the hardworking defence.

Mawlai thus had to wait until the 50th minute before getting the breakthrough, which they did through Wanboklang Lyngkhoi.

A long ball into the box was headed away by Khliehmawlieh but Donlad Diengdoh was in the way. His shot, however, was blocked by the goalkeeper but the rebound went straight to Lyngkhoi, who bundled the ball into the back of the net.

Khliehmawlieh can be reasonably pleased with their performance, though, and will look to come back fighting when the return leg is played in Shillong on Tuesday.

(Meghalaya Football Association photo. Shillong Lajong in red, Rangdajied United in blue/white)

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