Shillong(Meghalaya), Sep 10: Mawlai SC celebrated the title they had already secured yesterday with a 2-1 win over Ryntih SC in the 48th match of the OC Blue Shillong Premier League 2021-22 season at Third Ground, Polo, here today.
With an unassailable 29 points, Mawlai had bagged the title after yesterday’s draw between Langsning FC and Rangdajied United FC.
However, today was no walk in the park as Ebormi Buam (4′) delivered a shock to Mawlai’s system with an early goal for Ryntih. Mawlai levelled through a Brolington Warlarpih penalty in the 32nd minute but torrential rain then struck the ground, making conditions difficult to almost impossible before Robert Khongriah pulled Mawlai into the lead in the 75th minute.
Coming into today’s fixture, Mawlai had 29 points while Ryntih were down in fourth on 17. When the two sides met in the first leg of the derby on 14 July, Mawlai had mauled their opponents 5-0.
Mawlai could have been tempted to start with untested players but coach Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh went with a full strength starting XI as they looked to wrestle a 10th win of the season against their neighbourhood rivals and give some extra cheer to the large number of fans who came to the ground to support them.
It was not a fairytale start, however, with Sheen Sohktung delivering a deep free-kick that was headed back towards Buam, who finished it off with a header of his own that Mawlai’s redoubtable goalkeeper Neithovilie Chalieu could do nothing to stop.
This was Ryntih’s fastest goal of the season and the earliest that Mawlai have yielded; they had only conceded three goals before today and all were after the hour mark.
The champions elect had to find a way back and Remark Kharmalki almost delivered it in the 26th minute but his shot was punched away by Ryntih custodian Eric Nongkhlaw with a dive to his left.
However, Mawlai would go on to earn a penalty after Bickyson Kharkongor appeared to clip the boot of Donborlang Nongkynrih in the box. The two had already had a couple of altercations but Ryntih’s players were unhappy with the decision. Warlarpih, who was making his return to the side after missing the last game due to suspension, converted the spot kick easily enough.
A few minutes later, Nongkhlaw raced off his line to block Donlad Diengdoh and the rebound – fired in by Nikelson Bina – was dealt with by a Ryntih defender who had tracked back rapidly.
By this time it was raining heavily but the diehard Mawlai fans bravely stuck it out. The ground was severely waterlogged and the referees considered abandoning play but the players were determined to keep the game going and, in the interest of the fans, it was the right decision.
Nongkhlaw continued to perform well between the sticks for Ryntih, denying Dajiedlang Wanshnong in the 68th minute and then another opposition player after Mawlai regrouped.
It was a Wanshnong cross from the right that led to Mawlai’s second goal as Nongkhlaw tried to punch it clear but Khongriah, who came on as a second half substitute, connected at the far post for his maiden goal of the season.
At the other end, Chalieu also had a couple of moments where he shone; first he denied Wilbert Marbaniang by charging the Ryntih player and then, in the 89th minute, he got his body behind a challenging shot by Buam that bounced just in front of the diving keeper.
The next match in the OC Blue SPL will take place on 14 September between fifth-placed Nangkiew Irat SC (16 points) and seventh-placed Malki SC (7). The two sides had met in the first leg on 19 July where Nangkiew were 3-1 victors.