Shillong(Meghalaya), Sep 15: Shillong Lajong FC secured safety from relegation after edging Mawkhar SC 1-0 in the 50th match of the OC Blue Shillong Premier League 2021-22 season at Third Ground, Polo, here today.
Henry F Nongneng scored the only goal of the game in the 77th minute.
With today’s result, Malki SC and Mawkhar will finish the season in the drop zone no matter how the final round of matches goes. With a game each to play, Lajong have 14 points, Malki 10 and Mawkhar 6.
The Lajong-Mawkhar reverse fixture had gone in favour of SLFC 2-1 on 11 July.
Today’s encounter was a rather haphazard affair and it seemed apparent that whichever side was able to score first would go on to win.
In the second half Mawkhar conceded too many fouls and corners to Lajong and eventually, in the 77th minute, Nongneng rose above the rest in the box to head home a Samuel K Vanlalpeka corner kick.
Earlier, there was little in the way of excitement in the first half, though there was a moment at around the half hour mark where Lajong, with a free-kick on the edge of the box, had four shots in rapid succession, three of which were blocked by defenders and the last sent wide.
SLFC made a change in the first half itself, bringing on Sangti Janai Shianglong in place of Ioanis Suchen. Mawkhar, for their part, swapped out two players at the start of the second 45 minutes for the attacking combination of Justerwell Tham and Aibanraplang Dohling.
Tham went terribly close in the 54th minute with his strike clipping the crossbar and bouncing down but not across the line. A few minutes later, Everbrightson S Mylliempdah had what looked like a sure goal denied by Mawkhar goalkeeper Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew, who threw himself into the path of the Lajong player.
Despite these brief instances of good football, there were too many mistakes over the course of the game from both sides. One moment that stands out was when Abhay Chhetri of Lajong battled diligently for the ball with Dohling and won the tussle but then immediately passed the ball in error to another Mawkhar player.
For Mawkhar, this was another disappointing defeat. Their inability to score goals (they have recorded just 7 in 13 games) has been the main problem. At the back, they have let in just 21 goals, which is the same as fourth-placed Ryntih, fewer than fifth-place Nangkiew Irat and a lot less than Malki (35). Although promoted clubs often have difficulty sustaining themselves in the SPL, Mawkhar can look to the success of Mawlai SC at the top and know that it could have been possible; in 2019 Mawkhar had won the First Division, with Mawlai the runners-up.
As for Lajong, while their players let out a roar at the final whistle knowing that they had done enough to survive the 2021-22 season, having to fight to avoid relegation is not where the four-time OC Blue SPL champions will want to be. With one game to go, Lajong could still finish as high as fourth but that will depend on what Ryntih and Nangkiew Irat do in their remaining matches.
Tomorrow, Ryntih (17 points) will face second-placed Langsning FC (22) at 3:15pm. Their first leg meeting on 21st July ended 1-1.