Royal Wahingdoh qualify for I-League
Aizawl: The wait has finally ended for Royal Wahingdoh as the Shillong club staged a fightback to beat Sangbad Pratidin Bhawanipore FC 3-2 and earn a ticket to the 2014-15 edition of the Airtel I-League, here Friday.
In a thrilling match at the Lammual Stadium, the Shillong Club came back from behind to get the promotion. In the process, they became the third Shillong club to have achieved the feat.
India youth player Jackiechand Singh (37th), Babatunde Badmus (57th) and Liberian striker Bekay Bawar (87th) scored one apiece for the winners. The victory enabled Wahingdoh finish on top the league table of the 2nd Division with 18 points from eight matches.
They are followed by Bhawanipore FC on 17 points. Kalighat Milan Sangha with 10 points finished third followed by United Sikkim FC (7 points) and Hindustan FC on 4 points.
For Bhawanipore, Daniel Bidemi`s double strike went in vain.
Congratulating the winners, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar welcomed Wahingdoh into the Premier League of the Country.
"I congratulate Royal Wahingdoh and welcome them to the next edition of the Airtel I-League. At the same time I hope they continue the good work both on and off the field," he said.
"I am thankful to the Silchar District Sports Association and Mizoram FA for their cooperation and discipline which ensured the successful hosting of the final phase of the 2nd Division League," he added.
Despite knowing that a draw would see them through, Bhawanipore FC tried to seize the momentum and pressed right from the kick-off. Nigerian striker Bidemi tested rival goalkeeper Nikhil Bernard with a low shot from just outside the box but Bernard was equal to the task.
Wahingdoh, backed by a partisan crowd of more than 3000 slowly settled down and thereafter used their pace to catch their opponents on the wrong foot -- the tireless Seityasen Singh staying at the heart of all the action.
Seitasen, proving a bit too hot to handle for the Kolkata outfit first sneaked past a defender but his shot landed straight at the rival Goalkeeper. Minutes later, he turned provider for Bawar but the latter`s effort ricocheted off one of his teammates before bouncing out of play.
Bhawanipore took the lead almost immediately after through Daniel Bidemi. A fine move from the right saw Manjit Singh finding Bidemi in the clear. The Nigerian striker made no mistake in slotting home from close.
After the setback, Wahingdoh bounced back strongly and equalised through Jackiechand. The player, who had scored against Pakistan in the AFC U-19 Qualifers in Tehran in 2011, sidestepped his marker before letting loose a venomous pile-driver from the top of the box as both the teams ended 1-1 at the interval.
Changing over, veteran Babatunde Badmus gave Wahingdoh the lead in the 57th minute. Seitasen split open the rival defence with a measured pass and an ice-cool Babatude bulged the net. The crowd went berserk.
Even as the celebrations hadn`t died down, Bhawanipore, played their last trump card as Jose Ramirez Barreto substituted Alex Petroman Silva in the 58th minute.
Bhawanipore went all out for the equaliser and it came in the 74th minute as Bidemi leapt higher than all to head home Gurpreet Singh`s free-kick.
With sixteen minutes left, it seemed Bhawanipore would have the last laugh. But the never-say-die attitude of Wahingdoh boys and their relentless attacks pushed Bhawanipore on the backfoot even as they managed to hold on.
The moment, however, arrived three minutes prior to the final whistle. A deft feint from Bawar opened up space from him and he sent Bhawanipore Goalie Debjit Majumdar the wrong way. Wahingdoh were on the right path.
Wild celebrations followed after the final whistle, they stayed the sole club to remain unbeaten in the Championship.