Defending champions Odisha and 16-time winners Manipur stormed into the Final of the 20th Women’s National Championship upending Jharkhand and Delhi in the two semifinals played simultaneously in Golaghat and Bokakhat, Assam on Saturday.
While free-scoring Manipur ripped first-time semifinalists to shreds with Indian Senior National Team players notching six of the seven goals the North Eastern side plundered, Odisha rode on a fine brace from Jabamani Soren to outshine a determined Jharkhand 3-0.
Both the outfits meet in the Final on Monday (May 12, 2014) in Golaghat.
In the first semifinal, it all began in the 24th minute when Manipur Captain and AIFF Women’s Player of the Year Oinam Bembem Devi mercilessly broke Delhi’s resilience with a delectable left-footer that crashed into the top corner.
It was Manipur from there on. India forward Bala Devi netted a hattrick either side of halftime with India players Dangmei Grace, Parmeshwori Devi and rookie Ngonbi Devi also getting on the scoresheet.
Bala Devi was in terrific form scoring her first with a low shot from just outside the box three minutes after Bembem had given the North Eastern side the lead. National Team colleague Dangmei Grace joined the party with a 30- yard effort that swerved its way past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner six minutes before halftime.
There was no respite for Delhi after the break as Bala Devi netted her second ten minutes into the second half. The lanky India striker capitalized on a goalkeeping misjudgment firing into an open net with the keeper charging out of her area.
The fifth goal came at a cost as a collision just outside the area saw India defender Ashalata Devi being felled awkwardly by National Team colleague
Parmeshwori Devi who went on to round the keeper for an easy tap in. Ashalata had to be substituted immediately.
Bala completed her hattrick in the 82nd minute prodding home Parmeshwori’s inch perfect cross from the left, while youngster Ngonbi Devi completed the rout four minutes from full time.
The second Semifinal was a not as much a lopsided affair with Jharkhand’s 3-0 reversal not doing justice to the young side’s – full of mostly U-17 players – valiant display and never-say-die attitude.
What clicked for Odisha, who have been invincible so far in their bid to retain the trophy, was a combination of individual brilliance and profligacy from their counterparts.
It took Odisha 23 minutes to break the deadlock.
Jabamani, who was the cynosure of all eyes with her nimble-footed dribbling and brilliant link up play with the other goal scorer of the game Subha Prava Rout, let loose a rasping right-footer from 25 yards that cannoned up and over the rival goalkeeper into the roof of the net.
Stung by the early set back after some good build up in the initial exchanges, Jharkhand upped the ante but were left ruing their missed opportunities.
Change of ends saw no change in the fortunes of Jharkhand as Jabamani and Subha Parva combined well to double the advantage for Odisha. A teasing cross from the byline by Subha Prava saw Jabamani leap highest to nod home from close range.
Lady luck did not elude Subha Prava for all the hard work she put in. Taking a sharp deflection off the wall, the winger’s free kick from just outside the box kept low and beat the keeper who couldn’t get down in time to avert the danger.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)