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Royal Wahingdoh FC gains promotion to the 2014-15 I-League

Babatunde Badmus (Royal Wahingdoh FC)

Babatunde Badmus (Royal Wahingdoh FC)

The wait has finally ended for Royal Wahingdoh FC. In a thrilling match of deciding match the 2nd Division I-League at the Lammual Stadium in Aizawl on Friday, the Shillong club came back from behind as they rallied to beat Sangbad Pratidin Bhawanipore FC 3-2 to earn a ticket to the 2014-15 edition of the Airtel I-League. 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 I-League with 18 points from eight matches followed by Bhawanipore FC on 17 points. Kalighat Milan Sangha with ten points finished third followed by United Sikkim FC (seven points) and Hindustan FC on four points.

For Bhawanipore, Daniel Bidemi’s brace 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 told AIFF Media.

“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 I-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 Daniel 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 3,000 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.

Strung after the setback, Wahingdoh bounced back strongly and equalised through Jackiechand Singh. The Indi youth international, who had scored against Pakistan in the AFC U-19 Championship 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. Another club from Shillong are in the big league.

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)