Indian Women’s football defeated their counterparts from Nepal in the repeat of the 2010 final to lift the 2012 SAFF Championship title in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After cruising through to the group stage and the semi finals, both sides had set up a mouth watering clash for the crown.
Both the sides were favourites to top their groups which they did with ease. The Indian eves continued on with their attacking form of football and demolished Afghanistan in the semi finals by an intimidating score line of 11-0. With that, their tally of goals for the tournament went up to thirty, that too without conceding a single goal. Nepal on the other hand, was made to work hard for their place in the final by the hosts Sri Lanka as they had to depend on three second half strikes (including an injury time penalty).
The fans were still settling in their seats as Nepal took a surprise lead through Dipa Adhikari. Adhikari who ran through an Indian defence caught napping in the third minute latching to a pass from Anu Lama. It took barely five minutes for the defending champions to get their house in order as veteran midfielder Supriya Routray restored parity in the match with her first goal of the tournament. As the game progressed both teams settled in and were involved in a number of interesting midfield duels. Nepalese women were certainly not looking overawed by the situation and kept on pushing to regain the lead but the experienced Indian backline looked rock solid. At the other end, Indian lynchpin Bembem Devi managed to set up a number of attacks in front of a wobbly looking Nepalese defence but Bhagwati Thapa kept the opponents at bay with a stupendous performance.
Indian side looked a little fluttered with the fight Nepal was managing to give to them, as the usually calm skipper Bembem Devi picked up a booking after landing a rather rough tackle on Sanjana Devi. Sanajana was taken out on a stretcher but managed to come back on after a couple of minutes. After picking up an assist with Nepal’s goal, Anu Lama had an opportunity to score her first of the match minutes before the half time whistle, but her powerful long ranger was deflected away by the nineteen year old ‘keeper Aditi Chauhan.
Like the first, Nepal started second half on a positive note, while Indian women had to depend primarily on the counter attacks. Near the hour mark, India failed to pounce on a defensive error but that was the time when the tide began turning in favour of the women in blue. With less than twenty five minutes left on the clock, India got a free kick in a dangerous position and Bembem Devi’s shot found the back of the net after Nepalese keeper Namita Dali made a hash of it. The second goal gave self belief which the Indian women were lacking till then, as they bombarded the Nepalese goal with some powerful shots. India’s persistence finally paid dividends as Kamala Devi scored her seventh goal of the tournament, seven minutes from time to put the result beyond any doubt. Nepal did try to get one goal back but the writing was pretty much on the wall as India went on to defend the SAFF Women’s Championship crown; wrapping up an excellent fortnight for Indian football..
An usually mute AIFF (when it comes to Women’s football) were quick to pounce upon this opportunity and congratulated the Indian women on their success. The President of AIFF Mr. Praful Patel said, “The Women’s team displayed exemplary character both on and off the field as they breezed past every obstacle on the way. I congratulate the players and support staff for the achievement.”
AIFF General Secretary added that, “The AIFF left no stone unturned for the preparation of Women’s Team and the results are in front of us. I congratulate the team for the success. Football in India is on the rise. AIFF’s aim stays to popularise the sport among the women. I’m sure the result will go a long way in inspiring a new generation to take up the sport. “
TheHardTackle congratulates the entire Indian Women football contingent for their superb performance in the 2012 edition of the SAFF Championship and hopes that the women will bring a whole lot of more laurels in the future. We also hope the AIFF stands by their words and gives Women’s football its due, something which has been harshly denied in the past.