New Delhi, September 27: Government Senior Secondary School from Alakhpura, Bhivani, after a great toil, beat 14 BN NCC Manipur 2-1 to earn their right to meet Chanambam Thambou Higher Secondary School, Manipur, in the 56th Subroto Cup International Football Tournament’s Junior Girls (Under-17) final at the Ambedkar Stadium on Tuesday.
In the final, both the finalists can draw enough inspiration from London Olympics bronze medal winner, MC Mary Kom, who will be the chief guest.
In the first semifinals played at the venue today, Chanambam Thambou Higher Secondary School, Manipur defeated Sports School, Nagaland, 6-4 (2-2) via penalty shootout to become the third school from the state to enter the finals.
As for the Haryana team, this was their second final entry, having done it once before in 2013. But today’s win by the Alakhpura girls was all due to the brilliance of captain and international Nisha Bagria. She had a complete control on everything, including marshalling her midfield, the wings and her opportunistic strikes when the chips were down.
The NCC girls were on a high soon after resumption of the second session as the teams failed to goal in the first, despite Nisha trying a couple of long-rangers. Within five minutes of the second half, W. Ranjibala Devi sent in a superb volley after defender Ravina Yadav failed to clear the ball. Goalkeeper Neelam was squarely beaten by the flight of the ball which dipped in even as Neelam jumped to collect it.
Stung by the goal, Haryana went wayward before they cooled down to concentrate on business. A Minakshi Jakhar on the right reverse flicked a ball from right for Nisha to place it neatly beating the stretched hands of Julia Devi, an India international. In the remaining 15 minutes, none scored despite some good chances and the issue went to extra-time.
In dim light, the teams played as aggressively as they did during regulation but it was Nisha’s commitment and perseverance helped goal the winner in the sixth minute of the extra time. The loose ball should have been cleared by NCC’s defender M.Naoibi Devi but perhaps couldn’t smell the danger of a lurking Nisha.
However, hard the NCC girls tried in the second half of extra time, the Bhiwani girls defended stoutly to make their second final entry.
Had Nagaland, who played throughout the regulation and extra-time, managed a win today, they would have become the first team to enter the finals. But that was not to be, thanks to Manipur goalkeeper Josima Devi, who made two brilliant saves—both times diving to her left—during the shootout.
For the winners, Ranjita Devi, captain Naobi Devi, Yumnam Laxmi Devi and Asem R Devi made no mistakes with their attempts, all clean shots and away from the reach of Nagaland goalkeeper. For Nagaland, however, only Kedosenuo and Abeino converted while substitute Nengneivah and …tried their best to remain in the match but Josima Devi was too good on the day.
No doubt, the first semifinals had all the usual thrills one would expect from 10 northeastern sides. Both Nagaland and Manipur outfits matched each other in skills as the regulation time scores suggest.
If the first half belonged to Chanambam girls, the Sports School flourished in the second. Kashmina put Chanambam School in the lead as early as in the sixth minute and Naobi Devi slotted in the nick of time as the referee blew the whistle for half time.
After switching sides, Nagaland had nothing to lose as the pressure was on their rivals to keep their goal from falling. The Nagaland tactics paid dividends 10 minutes from time when Medongunuo made most of a cross from right to reduce the margin. When everything seemed over for the Nagaland side, Vizovonuou scored to restore parity in injury time (63rd minute).
With extra-time brought no result, penalty shoot was enforced.