Manipur emerged winners for a record 17 times as they downed defending champions Odisha 3-1 in the final of Women’s National Championship played in Golaghat, Assam.
Bala Devi’s brace and a goal from one of India’s most experienced player Oinam Bembem Devi sealed the fate for the North Eastern outfit before Sakina Nesa scored a consolation for Odisha.
Within three minutes from kick-off Bembem Devi’s cross was misjudged by Odisha goalkeeper Sita Sharma and the star striker Bala Devi pounced on the loose ball to head home from close range. The match was 20 minutes old when winger Mandakini Devi’s cross from inside the area was stabbed home by Bembem Devi with an expertly placed first-time finish to give Manipur a 2-0 lead.
Early second half, Mandakini again came up with a perfect assist for the 23 year old forward Bala Devi, who tapped in to score her 32 goal of the tournament and completed her brace in the final. Odisha showed good fighting spirit till the end as substitute Sakina Nesa scored a consolation from close range just to reduce defeat margin.
“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.