Shillong Premier League 2023: Rangdajied United kick off season with victory

Shillong, Mar 18: Rangdajied United FC began their Shillong Premier League 2023 campaign with a 1-0 victory over newly-promoted Nongthymmai SC in the highly anticipated opening match of the season at the SSA Stadium in Polo here today.

Due to exceptional circumstances regarding the laying of the new artificial turf at the stadium, the SPL had to be delayed a few months and, consequently, the decision was taken between the Shillong Sports Association and the eight participating clubs to reduce the 2023 tournament to a single leg format with semifinals and final to follow. It was also decided that there would be no relegation this season, which means that the SSA’s first tier will see a record 10 clubs in the 2024 edition.

Nongthymmai were promoted to the SPL after finishing second in the First Division in 2022. This is their first season in the top flight and they gave a good account of themselves today but came away with zero points after a stunner from Rangdajied’s Ksankupar Khongmalai in the 61st minute.

Deep on the left flank, he hooked a ball from a tight angle and it sailed over and above Nongthymmai’s goalkeeper Senapati Mandal. Although it might have been intended as a cross, he, and his teammates, were elated for what proved to be the winning goal.

Earlier, it was Andyson Lapang who had the first real shot on target in the 17th minute of the match but it was gathered neatly by Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew in the RUFC goal.

Rangdajied, the runners-up from 2022, held the upper hand for most of the match but did not outclass the Nongthymmai boys.

Bansanbha Khongsdam of Rangdajied tested the Nongthymmai defense on a couple of occasions in the first half, with the best attempt being a flicked header in the 35th minute off a corner that Senapati was able to latch on to.

After a goalless first half, Nongthymmai was caught nappling a little at the restart but Senapati and one of his defenders were able to avert disaster. However, Rangdajied had four corners in succession after that but, despite things getting a little desperate for Nongthymmai, they were able to prevent a goal.

Nongthymmai are brand new to the SPL – the other promoted team is Sawmer SC who had played in the tournament before – and they looked to test their more experienced opponents, with Andyson hitting the woodwork and Robi Hansda being denied by the keeper 15 minutes into the second half.

It was then that Ksankupar scored his blinder and Nongthymmai began to flag after that, with Rangdajied able to manage the ball and hold on for victory.

Tomorrow will see the second match of SPL 2023 between Sawmer and Nangkiew Irat SC at 3 pm.