Bala Devi struck her 21st goal of the campaign to steer Manipur to the Senior Women’s National Football Championship title at the CHF Ground in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday. Bala's 67th-minute goal proved to be the difference as Manipur secured a 1-0 win over Railways to earn its 20th National title.
The Railways defenders had their task cut out from the get-go - to keep Bala and Kamala Devi, both of whom who had scored twenty goals apiece coming into the tie, 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 kept the Manipur defenders on their toes and the latter had a fine chance inside the first ten minutes, but her strike missed the target by a whisker. Daya got another chance in the 28th minute from an acute angle but her left-footed attempt went just wide.
After the hour-mark, Manipur upped the ante and won back-to-back opportunities, only to see them intercepted by India National Team skipper Ashalata Devi and Manisha Panna.
The deciding moment of the match came in the 67th minute when Bala, following a melee inside the Railways box, unleashed a right-footer that sneaked into to the back of the net. She had a chance to double Manipur's lead three minutes later, but couldn't beat the 'keeper.
Manipur survived a scare in the 75th minute when Bina Devi’s untimely challenge brought Sanju down at the edge of the box. Kamala took the resulting freekick, but her attempt sailed over the crossbar. Railways threw the kitchen sink towards the end but the Manipur defenders saw off the danger to seal the title.
Bala emerged as the highest scorer of the tournament, with 21 goals from 6 matches, while Manipur custodian Panthoi Chanu was named the best goalkeeper.
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