Guwahati, April 11: Football in Meghalaya achieved yet another milestone as Royal Wahingdoh FC became the third club from Shillong to make it to the Airtel I-League, the apex professional football tournament of the country.
The Shillong team defeated Bhawanipore FC, Calcutta, 3-2 this evening in the last match of the second division I-League at Lammual Stadium in Aizawl to book a berth in the next edition of the I-League.
Wahingdoh had held Bhawanipore to a goalless draw in the first leg at S.M. Dev Stadium in Silchar last month. After three draws and a win against Sikkim United at Silchar, an all-win run in the Aizawl leg helped Royal Wahingdoh to finish unbeaten and make it to the prestigious league.
Shillong Lajong FC and Rangdajied United FC are the other Shillong teams in the I-League.
With today’s win, Royal Wahingdoh topped the eight-match final leg table with 18 points while Bhowanipore, for whom a draw in this evening’s match would have been enough to qualify for the I-League, finished runners-up with 17 points.
Thanks to an 87th minute goal from Liberian recruit Bekay Bawar, Royal Wahingdoh denied Bhawanipore a berth in the elite league. Trailing 2-1 till the latter part of the second half, Bhawanipore were almost out when, in the 74th minute, Nigerian striker Denial Bidemi struck his second goal of the match after a header from Gurpreet Singh.
Bidemi had put his side in the lead in the 23rd minute. However, that lead was short-lived, as Jackiechand Singh drew equalised for Royal Wahingdoh with a calculated shot from the 18-yard area in the 37th minute.
In the 57th minute, former ONGC and Rangdajied United striker, Badmus Babatunde, who was leading the side, put Royal Wahingdoh ahead with a power-packed shot that left opponent glovesman Debajit Majumder gaping.
Though the Calcutta men went onto the back foot to guard their castle, the never-say-die attitude of the Shillong men helped them continue with relentless raids into Bhawanipore territory. Finally, Bawar managed to outwit Majumder and placed one into the back of the net just three minutes ahead of the final whistle.