ANI Photo | Manipur wins Sr Women’s NFC for Rajmata Jijabai Trophy for record 22nd time

Manipur sealed a 2-0 victory against Haryana in the final of the 28th Senior Women’s National Football Championship for the Rajmata Jijabai Trophy to get hold of their 22nd title at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Ngangom Bala Devi (68′) and Nongmeikapam Sibani Devi (83′) scored the goals to hand Manipur the match after Haryana were down to 10 players as Samiksha was sent off for a foul on Dangmei Grace in the 65th minute.
Manipur started the more potent of the sides, their gameplan inevitably being centred around mercurial striker Bala Devi, who has scored 17 goals from 10 appearances in the competition this season. However, Haryana were a determined lot, not letting the Manipur midfielders play their natural game.
The experienced Bala began to drop down to midfield in the first quarter-hour, looking to use her flair to create spaces for the wingers. In the 21st minute, she turned Aarti to create some space in an otherwise congested midfield and played an aerial through ball to Grace. However, Grace’s shot was saved by Haryana goalkeeper Shreya Hooda.
Asem Roja Devi, Bala’s strike partner, would often switch roles with the latter, with Grace being the eventual benefactor on the right. Sibani had a great opportunity to score off a Grace cross, a little ahead of the half-hour mark, but she scuffed her header.
Haryana had their first real chance at the Manipur goal in the 33rd minute when Renu Rani tried her luck with a free-kick, which was aimed well at the top corner. It caused Manipur keeper Linthoingambi Devi some discomfort, but after an initial fumble, she managed to gather it.
Manipur were to have one more chance before the break, as Bala controlled a cross from Sibani Devi inside the box and attempted an acrobatic side volley. The airborne 34-year-old, however, shot wide.
Manipur came out of the blocks with great impetus after the change of ends. Roja and Grace had their respective efforts saved, as Haryana looked desperately stranded in their own defensive third.
Haryana’s 17-year-old winger Neha stepped up to provide them with an outlet on the counter. Her accurate cross from the left was headed over by Pooja, just minutes before Neha burst into acres of real estate in the Manipur half, hared past two defenders and produced a powerful shot aimed at the bottom corner. Lintoingambi had to produce a magnificent save to keep out what was arguably Haryana’s best chance of the match.
Haryana had their hearts in their mouths in the 65th minute, when Grace broke free behind their defence, and was pulled back by Samiksha. Referee Ruba Devi immediately pointed to the spot. Samiksha was sent off for her indiscretion.
Haryana’s Shreya Hooda stepped up in the battle of the two captains, as she made a double save to keep the scores level. She first dove to her right to save Bala’s spot-kick and then followed it up by deftly pouncing on the effort off the rebound by the Manipur captain.
Playing against a side reduced to 10 players, however, was a massive advantage for Manipur, and Bala redeemed her saved penalty just three minutes later when Roja flicked the Manipur captain through behind the defence inside the box. Facing just the opposition keeper from inside the box, Bala slotted it into the bottom corner.
Despite being down to 10 players, Haryana looked to get back in the match, their tactics primarily relying on the hopes that their quick forwards would run onto the long balls hooved upfield. However, it was an unsure touch by their defender, Kajal, that handed Manipur their second goal. Sibani did well to control the stray ball and sprinted into the box before she blasted it home.
Anirban Dutta, Secretary IFA, presented the Rajmata Jijabai Trophy to Manipur. Subrata Dutta, Chairman, IFA, was present.

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