A 52nd-minute goal by Anay Bai was good enough for the Girls Senior Secondary School from Bhiwani (Haryana) to lift the glittering Under-17 Junior Girls trophy in the 57th Subroto Cup International Football tournament at the Dr. Ambedkar Stadium this evening.
The girls from Haryana defeated their counterparts from the Sports School from Kohima in the final that was played in front of an appreciative crowd.
The Bhiwani girls received the trophy from chief guest of the evening, Air Marshal M.K. Malik, who also happened to be the vice-chairman of the Subroto Mukherjee Sports Education Society, even as the winners were cheered on by the Rio Paralympics hero and high jump gold medal winner Mariappan Thangavelu. What was refreshing to see was the way that the losing team from Nagaland also graciously appreciated their rivals’ efforts.
In the end, the Haryana girls will return home worthy winners after having begun their campaign in the Junior Girls section in right earnest nearly a fortnight ago. In fact, the girls were aided to a large extent by the ‘home’ crowd that had come from the neighbouring Haryana, a routine feature in any match that figures a team from the state.
Due credit must be given to both teams for keeping all the spectators glued to their seats for the spectacle to unravel. After a barren first half that saw the teams indulging in mind games rather than making a worthwhile move on the field, they came into their groove in the second period. Despite the goal-bearing moves being few and far between, on the whole, the second half really brought the vociferous crowd into it as attacks started fructifying.
The usual goal-scorers like Nisha, Sushma and Rajini Bala had been kept on a tight leash by the Nagaland defenders, thanks to some heavy marking. Obviously impeded, the Haryana strikers seemed frustrated in the early part of the second half. But what endeared them to everyone was the clean football they played without warranting any warning from the referee.
On the other hand, the Nagaland girls tasted a real blockade, perhaps for the first time in the tournament. Unable to pierce the defence or find any gap, the Kohima girls were in a spot of bother. Still, they maintained discipline on the field which was a rarity under the circumstances. Breaking the deadlock, Anay Bai made most of a situation when she received a cross from the right. Drifting past two defenders, she quietly placed the ball past the keeper to send the Haryana girls into a short celebration and huddle.
They were back to business soon, however, and efficiently guarded their goal from Nagaland counters until the final whistle.