Manipur crowned Senior National Football champions

Golaghat (Assam): Manipur outplayed defending champions Orissa 3-1 to clinch the 20th Senior National Women`s Football Championships title, their 17th crown overall, at the Golaghat Stadium here today.

Bala Devi struck twice in the third and 55th minute with AIFF Women`s Player of the Year Oinam Bembem Devi scoring in between in the 20th minute in the lopsided summit clash.
Orissa reduced the margin in the dying minutes (90+1) of the tie courtesy substitute Sakina Nesa`s close-range strike but it was too little too late for the defending champions.
Manipur last won the Championships in 2010.

"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," an elated Bembem said after the match.

Manipur indeed took the game by the scruff of its neck from the word go. The red shirts, full of national team players in their ranks, were clearly the much superior side. The Orissa girls, made up mostly of Under-19 players, found life difficult against their more fancied opponents.

It took Manipur just three minutes to take the lead. Orissa goalkeeper Sita Sharma failed to judge the flight from Bembem Devi`s cross from the right with Bala pouncing on the loose ball to head home from close.

Manipur doubled their lead without much fuss. A low cross inside the area by winger Mandakini Devi saw Bembem stab home with an easy first-time finish. The match was 20 minutes old and Orissa -- who had stormed into the finals much like their opponents -- appeared to have lost the plot by then.

The second half started as the first with Manipur all over their opponents, raiding Orissa citadel without mercy. Of one such move, Mandakini squared for Bala inside the area leaving the 23-year old goal-poacher with the easiest of tap-ins to notch up her brace and 32nd goal of the tournament. Bala was later adjudged player of the tournament.

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