Indian completed its dominance in the region lifting the SAFF Women’s Football title in style dominating neighbouring Bangladesh 3-1, in the final here at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on Wednesday. This was the fourth consecutive occasion Indian won the crown ever since it was conceived in 2010.
Playing under lights, the two opponents remained locked 1-1 at the half-time with Dangmei Grace putting the host in the lead in the first quarter of the action. Sirat Jahan Shopnah found the equaliser few minutes from the half-time to keep the interest in the match alive. India played too well after the beak to find two more goals – a penalty scored by Sasmita Malik and one from K. Indumathi – and completed the victory in style.
> READ: Sasmita Malik — winging her way to glory
Shrugging off the setback of being held to a goalless draw by the same side in the league stage, India pressed for the break right from the start. Sasmita almost broke the host’s resistance in the second minute of the action when India earned a free-kick right outside the Bangladesh box. The Indian winger was unlucky as her shot swerved off the target by inches. India kept up the pressure with two of its best runners – Sasmita and Dangmei Grace – mobilising the flanks. Bangladesh looked ill-equipped to take on the pressure of the host attacks initially as its defence offered regular corners in desperation to clear the Indian onslaughts.
Grace was rewarded for her hard work in the 12th minute when she came at the end of a fine assist from Kamala Devi, who went deep inside the Bangladesh territory to essay a nice back-centre. The Indian winger managed to tap the ball home before an onrushing Bangladesh goalkeeper Sabina Akhter could succeed in thwarting the opportunity. The early goal cheered up the Indian camp as it went in search of more to insure the lead. Sasmita came close to securing that in the 26th minute but the Sabina Akhtar made a valiant attempt in blocking the Indian’s midfielder’s effort. As India kept on missing opportunities, Bangladesh came together for an effective counter-attack in the 38th minute that fetched the equaliser. Availing a corridor on the right flank, the visitor broke through the Indian defence to locate Sirat Jahan Shopnah unmarked inside Indian box. The Bangladesh striker replied with a fine effort to beat the Indian goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan all ends up.
India redoubled its effort after the interval, seeing a more dominant role from captain and game-maker N. Bala Devi, who worked up a string of fine moves in the attacking third. The chance to re-establish the lead came in the 61st minute when Bala Devi was brought down inside box by the Bangladesh defence forcing Bhutanese referee Pema Tshewang to point the spot. Sasmita scored the penalty to get India on the winning mode. Five minutes later Indumathi foxed the Bangladesh custodian Sabina Akhtar with a powerful shot, which the latter spilled into own goal unable to judge the bounce and pace of the attempt. Sasmita and Kamala Devi could have added more to the Indian tally but their efforts in the 73rd and 88th minutes went wide.
The result: India 3 (Dangmei Grace 12, Sasmita Malik 61-pen, K. Indumathi 66) bt Bangladesh 1 (Sirat Jahan Shopnah 38)
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