Manipur 3 (Bala Devi – 3rd, 55th, Oinam Bembem Devi – 20th)
Orissa 1 (Sakina Nesa – 90+1)
GOLAGHAT: There was no stopping the Manipur juggernaut as they downed reigning champions Orissa 3-1 in a lopsided summit clash of the 20th Women’s National Championship to clinch the Nationals crown for the 17th time here at the Golaghat Stadium in Golaghat, Assam on Monday (May 12, 2014).
Goals at the beginning of the first and second period from Bala Devi and iconic India player Oinam Bembem Devi sealed the issue for the female footballing hotshots. Orissa reduced the arrears in the dying minutes of the tie courtesy substitute Sakina Nesa’s close range prod but it was too little too late for the defending champions.
The North Eastern last won the Championship in 2010.
An elated Bembem, who captained the side to the triumph told www.the-aiff.com moments after the final whistle that though the win looked facile, the young girls of Oriisa, mostly U-19 and playing for the first time, showed verve and a lot of promise.
“It was a good win. I am really happy to end a fairly good campaign on a high but more importantly I would like to point out that the future stars who played in Orissa colours today have a lot of potential.”
National Coach Anadi Barua while congratulating Bembem and co added: “It was good to see the Orissa girls fighting till the last minute. They could one and could have added another in added time. This goes to show their spirit. It was always going to be difficult against Manipur.. But they were brave and the shoulders never drooped, that’s important.”
“Coming to the champions, Manipur had the measure of the game from the first whistle. These girls are too experienced to falter. It was a nice experience for the youngsters, I’m sure,” Barua added.
Manipur indeed took the game by the scruff of the neck from the word go. As routine as attending office on a Monday morning, the red shirts full of National Team players in their arsenal did the job like going through the drills in a training session.
But the Orissa girls, all National Team hopefuls, did not cow down amidst stupendous pressure. The defending champions in fact scored a late goal and could have added another which would have brought the match alive in the dying minutes.
It took the 16-time champions just three minutes to take the lead. Orissa goalkeeper Sita Sharma failed to judge the flight from Bembem Devi’s cross from the right with Bala pouncing on the loose ball to head home from close.
Such was Bala’s confidence that soon after her 31th goal of the campaign, the player of the tournament tried a cheeky dink on the half volley with the ball landing on the roof of the net.
The U-19 girls of Orissa were finding life difficult against their senior counterparts who made light work of their five-man midfield deployed specifically to thwart Manipur’s aplomb in the final third.
The red shirts doubled their tally without fuss. A low cross inside the area by winger Mandakini Devi saw Bembem stab home with an expertly placed first-time finish. The match was 20 minutes old and Orissa – who had stormed into the Finals much like their opponents – were at sixes and sevens.
Manipur went into the beak with a 2-0 lead.
The second half started as the first with Manipur all over their rivals, raiding Orissa’s citadel without mercy.
Of one such move, Mandakini – enjoying field day at office – squared for Bala inside the area leaving the 23-year old goal-poacher with the easiest of tap ins to notch up her brace and 32nd goal of the tournament.
Orissa though showed great character to still look for the elusive goal and their doggedness paid dividends in the injury time. Substitute Sakina slammed home Subha Prava Rout’s through-ball that sliced open the Manipur defense. From the next move, the white shirts almost scored another. Subha Prava was in the thick of things here missing a gilt-edged chance from six yards.