Manipur beat defending champions Mizoram to clinch Dr T Ao Memorial Trophy
Manipur claimed the 4th Dr T Ao Memorial Football Tournament crown after beating defending champions Mizoram 4-3 on penalties in what was a keenly contested summit clash at the JN Stadium in Shillong, Meghalaya.
Locked at 1-1 in regulation time, the game went into the dreaded shootout after a dour 30 minutes of extra time. Mizoram’s skipper V Laltanpuia missed the target while Manipur scored the next one. Mizoram’s Lalchhuantlinga then missed the second shot as Manipur players rushed onto the turf in celebration.
Watched by a strong contingent of Manipur and Mizoram supporters in the stands, the match got off to a blazing start.
Manipur nearly went ahead in the 2nd minute when M Deepak fired a right-footer, which was brilliantly saved by Mizoram custodian J Van Lal Hriata. Seven minutes later, Md Sohail rifled in a long-ranger, which missed the Mizoram goal by a whisker.
Manipur dominated early exchanges, while Mizoram looked menacing on the fast breaks. But they seemed to go off the boil as Mizoram raised their game in the latter stages of the first half by a few notches. And they scored the opening goal when F Lalriinpuia slammed home a nice pass from the right in the 39th minute
Manipur had six first half minutes to draw level but to the credit of Mizoram, they did well to soak up all the pressure to go into half-time with a 1-0 lead.
Manipur stepped up their game in the second half but the Mizoram defence did a commendable job, nullifying their threat. The persistence of Manipur paid off when L Gogocha unleashed a fierce shot in the 76th minute past Mizoram goalie J Van Lal Hriata.
Both teams went all out to pull off the winner in the final fourteen minutes of play, but a goal eluded both the teams and the match was stretched to extra time. Even thirty minutes of extra time failed to break the deadlock and the match was decided by a penalty shootout, where Manipur prevailed.
Earlier, hosts Meghalaya took the third spot, smashing Arunachal Pradesh 6-2 in a play-off tie. Meghalaya opened the lead through skipper Niwan-O-Gatphoh.
Arunachal Pradesh equalized through Tadar Tokum before Meghalaya regained the lead through Lansning Kharumnuid. They restored parity for the second time through Hage Kemo as both teams were tied 2-2 at the break.
Kharumnuid and Bickyson Kharkongor scored early in the second half for Meghalaya as they went 4-2 up. Niwan-O-Gatphoh and Teiborlang Siangshai rubbed salt to Arunchal Pradesh’s wounds, scoring the fifth and sixth goals respectively.