Monday, April 22, 2024

Winless Meghalaya end Santosh Trophy campaign with 3rd draw


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By Our Reporter

Shillong, March 1: Meghalaya finished their stint in the 77th National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy 2023-24 final round with a 2-2 draw against Arunachal Pradesh in the last match of Group A in Itanagar on Friday.
The match was simply for pride and to avoid the group’s wooden spoon as all four spots for the quarterfinals from this group had already been decided.
Before Friday, Meghalaya were fifth in the table and hosts Arunachal sixth and that’s how the table stood at the end of the match.
With only pride to play for, coach Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh made wholesale changes to his starting line-up, bringing in seven players off the bench for the start of the match. In came Siwel Rymbai, Babysunday Marngar, Lukas Syngkli, Baiaikara Swer, Dameki Khongstia, Chesterpaul Lyngdoh and Shaiborlang Kharpan and out went Lionel Rymmei, Wanboklang Lyngkhoi, Damonlang Pathaw, Dawanchwa Challam, Nikelson Bina, Kitboklang Pale and Nelson Rymbai.
A cross from Sheen Sohktung led to the first goal, with Chesterpaul (8′) meeting it at the far side by sliding in to make goal-scoring contact with the ball.
Home fans were given something to cheer about when pressure on the defence by Rahul Singpho saw the ball lost by Meghalaya and Tarh Dolu (22′) ran in to meet it and slammed it home from 20 yards out past the diving Meghalaya goalkeeper Siwel. It may have taken a slight deflection but it was a thoroughly impressive strike nonetheless.
In the second half, Singpho (56′) scored again, with the unmarked player heading in a wonderful cross from the right flank for Arunachal to claim the lead.
Victory, though, was not to be even if they dominated most of the rest of the game. Meghalaya substitute Kitboklang was fouled by the goalkeeper deep in the second half and the spot kick was converted by Sheen Sohktung (82′).
It’s been a disappointing campaign for Meghalaya, who went directly into the final round as they were runners-up in 2022-23. That joyous performance from last season was not to be repeated this time around. While the coach and several players were the same, those from Shillong Lajong FC were ineligible to take part this time as the club are now back in the I-League.
There was also little to no match practice for the players – most are drawn from clubs that play in the Shillong Premier League but that competition’s 2023 season has been delayed several times and is now only scheduled to begin later this month.
The actual results weren’t all that bad for Meghalaya, though, which just goes to show that if they had been able to improve one or two areas they might have made it into the quarterfinals – they began with a stoppage time penalty loss to Services, followed by a real shocker to neighbours Assam, then a draw with Kerala before another draw with Goa, the last a match Meghalaya had to win in order to keep their hopes of progression alive.
The two other fixtures from the group on Friday also ended in draws.
Services versus Kerala finished 1-1, while the Goa-Assam game finished 3-3.


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