Two second half goals in a space of three minutes from FC Bethlehem ensured they finished with a point in an entertaining encounter with FC Venghnuai in their first match of the ninth edition of Mizoram Premier League (MPL) on September 9.
The ninth edition of MPL, the top flight in Mizoram football, commenced in Aizawl from September 8 after two years’ Covid-19 pandemic break.
FC Bethlehem were the team to strike first, needing just four minutes to score through a header from Lalbiakdika. Both teams exuded energy in the early stages and it was Bethlehem who came close again after the half hour mark as they struck the post.
FC Venghnuai got their break through on the 41st minute with talisman Vanlalthanga striking a 30 yard freekick into the net of Bethlehem. And they weren’t done there as they took the lead right before halftime through an opportunistic finish from Lalrempuia.
Venghnuaia continued in the same vein in the second period, with experienced MPL striker Lalrammuanpuia scoring their third from the penalty spot.
FC Bethlehem reaped the rewards of their perseverence on the 71st minute as they were able to capitalise on a defensive error from their opponents. Venghnuai goalkeeper Joel Lalramchhana was unable to deal with an aerial ball properly within his box, resulting in Lalruatpuia bundling the ball to score his side’s second goal.
And they were able to strike again in the 73rd minute with Moses Lalrinzuala applying a deft finish from within the 6 yard box to put his team on level terms.
FC Bethlehem skipper, former ATK and Chennaiyin FC left back Sena Ralte was awarded man of the match.
In another match today, two time champions Chanmari FC were able to start their MPL9 campaign with a win after overcoming Electric Veng FC with a solitary goal.
A second half penalty earned and scored by F Lalnuntluanga proved to be the difference between the two sides in an evenly contested 90 minutes.
Chanmari FC’s custodian MS Dawngliana was called into action a couple of times before and after the break by Electric Veng FC as he needed to make saves from Remsanga and Thanga Hmar.
Lalmuankima also had a chance to put Chanmari ahead early on in the first half but was unable to put the finishing touches after being put through.
MPL 9 has eight teams with the teams facing each other twice in the course of the league with the top four teams earning a place in the semifinals. The semifinals will be a double-leg tie.
This season’s edition of the MPL will also have a round of matches played at newly installed turf at Khawzawl while the rest of the matches will take place at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium and Lammual, Aizawl.
Mizoram Football Association official ball partner Nivia will provide the official MPL match ball, the ‘Nivia Dominator 3.0’.
Chairman of MPL Board P C Vanlalhruaia opined that, “This is like restarting football in Mizoram after two seasons. We are going to see new faces and a much younger players than before which makes the season unpredictable and yet exciting.”
Lalnghinglova Hmar, Honorary Secretary of MFA shared the same view, “Many older players are forced to retire due to more than two years without competitive football in the state, however, this gives us an opportunity to refresh ourselves and start with a new generation of footballers,” he said.