New Delhi, September 29: It was Haryana again, second time in a row. This time it was girls from Government Senior Secondary School from Alakhpura, who lifted the Subroto Cup International Football trophy in the Junior Girls (Under-17) section.
The Bhiwani girls beat Chanambam Thambou Higher Secondary School, Manipur 5-3, via penalty shootout, in the final of the 56th edition of the tournament at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Tuesday.
The winners from Haryana received a prize purse of Rs. 3.50 lakh and the trophy from London Olympics bronze medallist MC Mary Kom, while the team from Manipur received Rs. 2 lakh and the runners-up from the boxing icon. There were several other rewards and awards which were distributed to both the teams, Haryana grabbing most. Expectedly, the player of the tournament award went to Haryana team captain Nisha Bagriya, accompanied by a cash prize of Rs. 50,000.
And it was she who drove the final nail in Manipur’s coffin to seal the 5-3 win in the shootout, making it beyond their rivals. Earlier, Ravina Yadav, Samiksha Jakhar, Sheetal and Sharda Jakhar were on target with their shots. But for the losers, Sweety Devi, Asem Roja Devi and Naoibi Devi converted while Ranjita Devi hit the post, the second of their chances.
It was there, the Imphal girls lost the match. In fact, even before that Kashmina had spilled what was a golden opportunity.
With two minutes added to the regulation time, the match seemed heading towards extra-time play. It was then came the god-sent opportunity for Kashmina when she received a through ball inside the box. Even as Neelam was moving forward, Kashmia had all the time to slot the ball in but her shot went wayward. Kashmina had 14 goals to her credit before this chance.
During extra-time, Haryana had an upper hand but the winner was eluding them as well as Manipur who, in their anxiety, missed a few. In the first half of the extra time, a through ball was well collected by Nisha but found Sweety in her way. She reversed the ball which Pooja Bagriya just needed to guide in. But her shot was wide off the mark.
The first half certainly belonged to Manipur for they looked more settled and looked scoring at least on four occasions. They had a better coordination in defence and attack. Understandably, prolific striker Asem Roja Devi was overburdened with more passes than left-striker Kashmina. But every time, the ball came to Roja Devi, she was rendered ineffective thanks to tight marking by Haryana, especially defenders Ravina Yadva, Sheetal and Pramila.
In fact, teams coaches of Haryana and Manipur, Sonika Vizarni and Ronibala Devi, had done their homework well and it was reflecting on the deployment of forces to mark the dangerous players from either side—Nisha Bagriya and Asem roja Devi.
Nisha, too, was unable to make her trademark manoeuvres, including attempting the long-rangers. Constantly shadowed by Manipur’s central defenders Sweety Devi and Thahenba Devi, the Haryana side’s captain was blunted.
However, Manipur could have gone ahead in the 18th minute but a slight delay by Roja Devi nullified the chance. Though the ball ricocheted off Neelam’s hand following a clumsy collection, Yumnam Laxmi Devi’s shot at goal lacked punch. Three minutes later, the Manipur forward escaped a booking when she charged at Neelam after the Haryana goalkeeper had collected the ball safely. Referee Uvena Fernandes overlooked to give a reprieve to her.
Even during three minutes of injury time, a couple of chances came Roja Devi’s way but her long-ranger lacked direction. In a counter-attack, Haryana’s Nisha too tried but her feeble shot was well collected by custodian Joshima Devi.
After the break, both teams played with some purpose but heavy marking was too much that none of the teams, however hard they tried, could score. Sweety Devi must be complemented for the way she thwarted all the Haryana moves, standing tall and blunting Nisha and teammates with clean tackles.