Shillong, Jun 17: Making good on their near-miss four years ago, Rangdajied United FC got their hands on the Meghalaya State League 2023 trophy by beating a spirited Khliehmawlieh Youth Club 1-0 in the final at the SSA Stadium here today to bring the curtains down on a memorable tournament.

The only goal of the game came in just the ninth minute off the boot of Wanlamsuk Nongkhlaw in front of a packed stadium brimming with supporters for both sides who made the action all the more thrilling.

Also present at the grand finale were a wealth of dignitaries, including the Deputy Chief Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar, Adviser to the Chief Minister Hamletson Dohling, Additional Chief Secretary P Shakil Ahammed, Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills RM Kurbah, Secretary of Sports & Youth Affairs R Sohkhlet, ex-MLA and former India international Eugeneson Lyngdoh, senior members of the Meghalaya Football Association and representatives of the affiliated district sports associations.

The early minutes of the game ended up being crucial to the final outcome as Khliehmawlieh, like in their momentous second leg semifinal encounter against Mawlai, started shakily.

Rangdajied, who were runners-up in MSL 2019, found numerous gaps through the defensive line, especially on the right flank where they concentrated their attacks through the fleet-footed Bansanbha Khongsdam and Tremiki Lamurong.

It was a throw-in from Apborlang Kurbah to Khongsdam on the edge of the box that led to the goal, with the No. 17 getting past his marker and then cutting the ball back sharply for Nongkhlaw in the middle. He trapped the ball with his right foot before swinging round to deliver an inch perfect left-footer that flew past the outstretched arms of Khliehmawlieh goalkeeper Handbill Savio Syiemlieh.

Khliehmawlieh’s fans never lost hope, though, as they knew their team could deliver a comeback, as they had done against Mawlai earlier in the week.

They began to lift their game towards the end of the first half, clearly demonstrating just what a force to reckon with they have been this season and came close twice in the last few minutes, with Kynjai Marthong heading a free-kick just wide before Shelbikstar Marngar’s shot took a deflection and went away from goal.

Changing ends, it was end-to-end action in the second half as Rangdajied sought to pull out a bigger lead while Khliehmawlieh searched for the equaliser.

A few mistakes began to creep into Rangdajied’s play, such as when goalie Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew tumbled over a team mate when moving to punch away a lobbed ball. At the other end, a poor clearance gave Balamlynti Khongjee an opening but he sent his shot over the crossbar and neither side managed to find a goal despite going close on several occasions through their strenuous efforts.

During half time, cheques of Rs 2 lakh each were handed out to all the associations affiliated to the MFA for holding local leagues in their respective areas, part of the efforts of the MFA and state government to strengthen the football infrastructure in all districts and create a pathway to further success. In a short speech, MFA President Larsing LD Sawyan thanked the Meghalaya government for its continuous support in making the MSL possible, which it has been fully funding since the inaugural edition in 2017-18.

Clubs that qualified for the MSL also receive Rs 1 lakh each, with the semifinalists receiving an additional Rs 1 lakh. Khliehmawlieh were today presented with a cheque of Rs 3 lakh for being the runners-up and Rangdajied United Rs 5 lakh as champions.

Individual awards were also handed out at the closing ceremony, with Donlad Diengdoh of Mawlai SC taking the Golden Boot as top scorer with 15 goals. Rangdajied had two award winners – the Golden Glove went to Banshanlang Sten as best goalkeeper and the Golden Ball went to U-21 player Tremiki Lamurong as best player, which summed up a brilliant campaign for the Champions of Meghalaya.

(Meghalaya Football Association photo)

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