Shillong, April 26: Rangadjied United FC kept their 100 percent win record going today in the Shillong Premier League 2023 but only after an intense battle with defending champions Mawlai SC. Rangdajied, reduced to 10 men for the last 20 minutes, won 2-1. 

With a full 18 points from six games, and now 5 points ahead of Mawlai, Rangdajied have locked in first place in the round robin stage of SPL 2023. Mawlai were also assured of a semifinal spot but their ultimate position in the Top 4 is yet to be decided. The Shillong Sports Association released the semifinal fixtures yesterday, with Rangdajied as the top team set to meet the eventual fourth-placed side on 7 May. The second- and third-placed teams will then meet on 8 May. 

Today, RUFC were two goals up thanks to Aenam Jyrwa (37’) and Basuk Bina (63’) before Arlangky Nongsiej was sent off with a direct red card for having words with the referee. Mawlai threw everything they could but were only able to find one goal, through Arkibor Makhroh (90’+2). Kerichard L Marshillong, standing in for regular Rangdajied goalkeeper Banshanskhem Kharsyntiew, also deserves mention as he saved a penalty from Mawlai captain Brolington Warlarpih. 

Guaranteed their places in the knockouts, Rangdajied and Mawlai started off rather sedately in the bright afternoon sunshine. 

The reigning champions had a couple of early goes on goal denied by Kerichard and Rangdajied also had two opportunities go begging.

They found the breakthrough eventually through Aenam after RUFC captain Apborlang Kurbah went deep on the right before cutting the ball back to Aenam in the centre. The latter then fired in a low right-footer that Siwel Rymbai could not keep out. The Mawlai gloveman may have been a little unsighted as there were numerous bodies blocking his vision but the placement from Aenam was excellent. 

Rangdajied doubled the lead after an hour when Basuk, who had missed a chance a minute earlier, sprinted up for a long ball, swerved round Siwel inside the box and angled the ball beyond the reach of the trailing defenders. 

At 2-0 up RUFC appeared to have the match in the bag but it was at this point that they let their tempers get the better of them. Unhappy with a free-kick to Mawlai, Arlangky was sent off and that put the pressure right back on Rangdajied. 

Seven yellow cards followed after that – four for Rangdajied and three for Mawlai – as temperatures reached boiling point.

Mawlai earned a penalty in the 86th minute following a handball in the box but Kerichard came to the rescue by diving right to put out Brolington’s rather weak shot. The Mawlai skipper has not been in the best form when it comes to dead ball situations and he had his head in his hands after missing this one. 

Brolington made amends somewhat after forcing Kerichard into a good save following a free-kick in stoppage time. The goalie tried to punch it away but it remained in play and Arkibor was able to help it over the line despite a tricky bounce. 

Rangdajied then negotiated the last few minutes to emerge as winners and are just one win away from a perfect round robin stage. Tomorrow, Sawmer SC will face Shillong Lajong FC at 3:15pm.