India won their fourth consecutive SAFF Women’s Championship title when they beat Bangladesh 3-1 in the final at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri on Wednesday, January 4. In the process, the golden girls now stay unbeaten in 19 matches having won 18 and drawn one.
The first goal came as early as the 12th minute. Though it wasn’t a dream goal for any striker, scorer Dangmei Grace didn’t really mind when it touched her leg and slowly rolled into the empty net with rival Goalkeeper Sabina Akhtar caught in a dilemma.
It set the tone for the match. The match being a final meant that Bangladesh had to shrug off their defensive aspirations and that allowed India the width and space which this match up didn’t have in the group stage.
In the first 20 minutes, India had earned four corners and every time Bala Devi touched the ball, she created something out of nothing. In fact, Kamala Devi should have doubled the lead in the 17th minute when Bala set her a free-header, but it narrowly sailed out.
However, Bangladesh withstood the storm, regrouped, and eventually equalised in the 40th minute through Shopna as both teams headed into the interval locked 1-1.
Changing over, India were again faster off the blocks. They pressed high and hard even as Bangladesh depended mostly on counter-attacks.
The break came in the 60th minute when the irrepressible Bala was pushed inside the box as the referee pointed to the spot. 2016 AIFF Player of the Year Sasmita Malik gleefully converted the penalty.
With just 30 minutes remaining, it was quite a task for Bangladesh to come back. And it went worse for them seven minutes later when Goalkeeper Sabina, who was having a decent game till then, misjudged the bounce of a harmless Indumathi shot from long and the ball rolled in.
As India’s golden girls celebrated, Sabina hid her face in her gloves, quite understanding her mistake may rob her Country of the steam to fight back. Life at times can be so cruel.
Spurred, India did go all out as they smelt more. But this time, their perseverance didn’t yield any more goals.
It hardly mattered. It was fourth in a row for India, unbeaten in 19 matches in South Asia and counting.
(Report & Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)