New Delhi, March 25: Bend it like Beckham..! But, mhari chooriya choron se kam naa hai..!! Giving India a reason to rejoice and celebrate, Indian Women’s Football team continued their dominance at the SAFF Women’s Championship, lifting their fifth straight title in Biratnagar, Nepal with a 3-1 win over the hosts in the final.
The win extends India’s unbeaten run in the tournament’s history to 23 games. Goals from Dalima Chhibber, Grace Dangmei and substitute Anju Tamang saw India lift the trophy in front of the home crowd at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium. The match was intense from the word go, with both sides pressing hard. Dangmei fashioned a couple of early chances down the right wing for India while Nepal registered a couple of shots from distance, with Manjali Kumar testing Indian custodian Aditi Chauhan in the 14th minute.
Just three minutes later, after some excellent build-up play down the right, Sandhiya laid off a ball for Sanju to shoot from the top of the box. The winger’s effort was a powerful one but was saved by the opposition keeper. On the other end, Sabitra Bhandari posed a threat for India inside the penalty area but her curling effort was off target.
The break saw both sides go locked at a goal apiece but it could have easily been either team with the lead. Grace failed to connect well with a cross from Sanju down the left in the 41st minute and Aditi made a brilliant double save to deny Sabitra in first half stoppage time.
The second half began with India creating the majority of the opportunities, with Sanju and Ratanbala putting their respective efforts just over the bar. Nepal were under the cosh and India’s pressure paid off in the 63rd minute after Sanju put Grace through on goal with a through ball.
The winger swiftly broke through and showing great composure, she rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home to restore India’s advantage. It proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as the away side continued to keep the Nepal side at bay and almost added another as Ratanbala’s shot was spilled by the keeper.
Towards the end, Nepal threw the kitchen sink at the Indian defence but they visitors stood firm. Sabitra and Renuka Nagarkote threatened to halve the deficit but could not get past Aditi in goal as India romped to a fifth SAFF trophy in a row.