Manipur, the predominant power in womens football in India returned to the top as they defeated champions Orissa 3-1 in the 20th Women's National Championship to make it 17 out of 20 national titles, adding to their last title in 2010.
Goals at the beginning of the first and second period from Bala Devi and one from iconic India player Oinam Bembem Devi sealed the deal while Orissa only replied through a solitary strike from Sakina Nesa in added time.
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.
The second half started as the first with Manipur all over their rivals, raiding Orissa’s citadel without mercy.
Bala had an easy tap in to make it 3-0 for Manipur while the only consolation came for Orissa in added time when Nesa scored from close range but that was not going to be enough.
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