Manipur beat Odisha 3-1 to seal semi-final berth in Sr Women's NFC for Rajmata Jijabai Trophy


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Manipur became the first team to book their spot in the semi-finals of the 28th Senior Women's National Football Championship for Rajmata Jijabai Trophy Final Round after beating Odisha 3-1 at the AIFF National Centre of Excellence in Kolkata on Thursday, May 9, 2024.
The record 21-time champions picked up their fourth straight win to remain at the top of the Group B table. After crashing out in the group stage last year, Manipur have stamped their authority in this year's edition, scoring 22 goals in their four games so far.
Second-placed Haryana (10 points) opened up a three-point gap over Odisha (7 points) with a 3-0 win over Maharashtra later in the day. At the Kishore Bharati Krirangan, Sikkim overturned a three-goal deficit in the second half to steal a 5-4 victory over Jharkhand in a thrilling encounter between two already-eliminated teams.
The semi-final race in Group B now remains between Odisha and Haryana, who played out a 1-1 draw on the opening matchday. Haryana require a point against Manipur on Saturday to qualify, while Odisha will need to beat Sikkim and hope for a Haryana defeat, which would bring it down to goal difference in the end.
There's no stopping Manipur
Manipur 3 (Ngangom Bala Devi 17', 66', Dangmei Grace 26') beat Odisha 1 (Manisha Naik 87')
Odisha had beaten Manipur on penalties in last year's National Games final, but it was far from a close affair this time out. Manipur raced to a two-goal lead after just 26 minutes with strikes from Bala Devi and Dangmei Grace, both assisted by Roja Devi.
In the 17th minute, Bala received the ball from Roja just outside the box and didn't think twice before unleashing a curling strike into the top corner with her left foot. Odisha custodian Spandita Das had no chance of getting anywhere close to that stunning shot. Nine minutes later, Roja swung in a first-time cross from the left and Grace cleanly placed it into the far corner with great composure to make it 2-0. It was the winger's third goal of the final round after a brace in the opening game against Jharkhand.
Odisha switched into damage-limitation mode for the majority of the match thereafter, but they couldn't prevent Bala from netting her eighth goal in three matches. The India international striker used her strength to shake off defender Pragyan Kishan and let a shot fly from around 30 yards out which dipped under the crossbar. Spandita had a better chance of saving this one but the ball brushed her fingertips and went into the net.
Odisha got one goal back in the 87th minute when Banti Sharma and Nirmala Devi failed to clear captain Pyari Xaxa's cross. Substitute Manisha Naik took full advantage of the loose ball and poked the ball past Linthoingambi Devi. The goal didn't alter the result of the match but it could be crucial in the context of goal difference, with Odisha now hoping to qualify as the group runners-up.
Simran Tamang hat-trick helps Sikkim stage second-half comeback
Sikkim 5 (Laxmi Tamang 55', Simran Tamang 65', 71', 87', Abhista Basnett 88') beat Jharkhand 4 (Roshni Tigga 23', Anushka Kumari 30', 40', Kajal Kumari 62')
Roshni Tigga netted Jharkhand's first goal of the final round as she opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. The midfielder pressed high and robbed Angel Subba of the ball before racing into the box from the right and delicately chipping it over goalkeeper Gyurme Dolmo Tamang. 13-year-old Anushka Kumari, who was India's top-scorer at the SAFF U16 Women's Championship in March, doubled the lead seven minutes later with a brilliant solo effort. She cut inside from the left, dribbled past two Sikkim defenders and slammed the ball into the roof of the net. Anushka put her shooting prowess on display again as she netted another one in the 40th minute, surging forward on the right before driving a fierce shot high into the net from the edge of the box.
But the story would completely swing Sikkim's way in the second half. They reduced the arrears in the 55th minute when Laxmi Tamang lobbed the ball into the net from 20 yards out with goalkeeper Jyotsna Bara out of her line. But Jharkhand struck again seven minutes later, Kajal Kumar bundling in at the far post as Gyurme failed to judge the flight of the ball.
However, striker Simran Tamang netted a 22-minute hat-trick to make it 4-4. A defensive lapse from Jharkhand allowed her to roll the ball into an empty net. She struck her second with a neat finish from her right foot and completed her hat-trick in the 87th minute after slotting home a loose ball as Jharkhand failed to clear a corner. But the best goal of the entire match came in the very next minute as Sikkim finally took the lead thanks to substitute Abhista Basnett's top-corner strike from 25 yards out. Against all odds, the north-eastern side executed a memorable comeback and climbed to fourth on the table.
Haryana find it easy against Maharashtra
Maharashtra 0 lost to Haryana 3 (Prerna Meshram 21' og, Neha 32', Rajni Bala 80')
Haryana picked up their third straight win as they beat Maharashtra 3-0 in the evening fixture at the AIFF National Centre of Excellence. Defender Prerna Meshram's own goal put last year's finalists ahead in the 21st minute before India youth international Neha, who was also adjudged the player of the match, made it 2-0 at the half-hour mark. Second-half substitute Rajni Bala added a third in the 80th minute to wrap up the points for Haryana.
The qualification race in Group A is heating up as the final matchday beckons on Friday, with Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Railways in the hunt for the two places. They will face Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi, respectively, in three simultaneous kick-offs at 15:30 IST on May 10. AIFF