Manipur 1 (Bala Devi 67’)
By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay
AIFF Media Team
PASIGHAT: Manipur pipped 1-0 Railways to triumph in the final of the 25th Hero Senior Women’s NFC 2019-20 at the CHF Ground in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh today (September 24, 2019).
Skipper Bala Devi’s 67th-minute strike was enough to win Manipur’s 20th Senior Women’s NFC title. Meanwhile, Bala, the highest scorer of the tournament, signed off 21 goals from 6 matches whereas Manipur goalkeeper Panthoi Chanu was bestowed with the best goalkeeper award.
While both the teams went for a safety-first approach since the get-go, defenders had their tasks cut out to keep Bala and Kamala, who came into the game having scored twenty goals apiece, in check.
Daya Devi, who scored seven goals in the last two matches, got the first chance in the second minute but Railways goalkeeper Swarnamayee Samal parried it away.
Railways wingers Mamta and Sanju continued to keep the Manipur defenders on their toes and the latter could have found the back of the net inside the first ten minutes but missed the target by a whisker.
Daya got another chance in the 28th minute from an acute angle but her left-footer went begging.
Following fewer chances in the first 45 minutes, Railways deployed more pair of legs in the attacking third to help Kamala and Sanju in their pursuit of the eluding goal but to no avail.
After the hour-mark, Manipur shifted the gear and earned back-to-back opportunities only to see them intercepted by India National Team skipper Ashalata Devi and Manisha Panna.
Finally, in the 67th minute, following a melee inside the Railways box, Bala unleashed a right-footer and Samal, whose vision was blocked partially, had clearly no answer to stop that.
Three minutes later, Bala could have doubled the lead but Manisha blocked it to keep the score same.
Manipur survived a scare in the 75th minute when Bina Devi’s untimely challenge brought Sanju down at the top of the box. Kamala took the resulting freekick only to see it sailing over the crossbar.
Daya came very close to write her name on the scoresheet in the dying moments of the game but Samal pulled off a blinder to keep the game alive.
Railways threw the kitchen sink towards the end but the Manipur defenders saw off the dangers with much composure to seal their second consecutive Hero Senior Women’s NFC championship title.