Mawlai SC pulled off a top-notch performance when it mattered most to seal a second consecutive title in the Shillong Sports Association’s Women’s League 2023 at the SSA Stadium at First Ground, Polo, here today.
The hotly contested final saw Mawlai, who won the inaugural Women’s League last year against the same opponents, take a 3-1 victory over Laitkor SC in front of thousands of eager fans.
Sunalinda Iawren (15′), Charlinda Nongtdu (40′) and Ideibanri Kharpan (50′) scored for the victors, while Iawanlang Nongbet (36′) was the lone scorer for the runners-up.
Tears of joy and sorrow were shed at the final whistle, with Mawlai understandably overjoyed but Laitkor were heartbroken after once again losing out on the champions’ trophy after a superlative season that saw them win every single match up until today.
For Mawlai, it was an even more impressive performance given that they had a couple of shaky matches prior, including being run hard by PFR Academy in the semifinal, which Mawlai only won in a penalty shootout.
Today, they were back to their very best and controlled the game from the first whistle. Marbarin Nongrum was brilliant on the right flank, delivering beautiful crosses into the box and one of these was slammed into the back of the net by the fast-paced Iawren at the far post in the 15th minute of the 70-minute match.
Laitkor were heavily reliant on Nisilia Majaw at the other end of the pitch and she went just wide around the half hour mark. Right at the end of the first half, she delivered a terrific cross of her own but Tracy Rympei could not quite get enough good contact and the opportunity for an equaliser was missed.
After the break, however, Laitkor emerged as a different team and brought joy to their many fans a minute into the action, with a Majaw cross bouncing around in the box before Nongbet fired it in across the line.
The equaliser shifted momentum towards Laitkor, with Majaw clipping the crossbar only a minute later but Mawlai seized the lead once again in the 40th minute after a hectic spell in the Laitkor box, with both Nongtdu and Kharpan claiming the goal.
There was no doubt about Mawlai’s third, though, as Nongtdu ran up the pitch solo and then cut the ball sharply back for Kharpan to negotiate a defender before placing the ball into the net in the 50th minute.
Laitkor looked a little exhausted towards the end of the game but there was one further highlight in a wonderful save made by their goalkeeper Banrisha Wahlang to deny Mawlai a fourth goal.
This match thus brought the curtains down on what has been a highly successful second edition of the SSA’s Women’s League. It has been a celebration of women’s football, the quality of which has improved markedly since last year and which should only increase in the years to come. The SSA also ensured that all the matches were officiated completely by local female referees, giving them valuable experience of overseeing football matches that will hold them in good stead if they decide to progress further up the refereeing ladder, like the trailblazer Ri-iohlang Dhar, a female FIFA assistant referee.
The chief guest on the day of the final was the Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Isawanda Laloo IAS, who handed over the cheque of Rs 30,000 and trophy to the winning team. As runners-up, Laitkor received Rs 18,000.
Also present on the occasion were senior SSA members, including Karsing Kurbah, Prosper Warjri and Freddy Kharpran, among others, who handed out the individual awards to Lumparing SC’s Priyanka Latam (Best Goalkeeper), Laitkor’s Nisilia Majaw (Player of the Tournament) and Mawlai’s Sunalinda Iawren (Player of the Final).