Monday, Jun 16, 2003
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By S.R. Suryanarayan
Orissa's Thumki Munda (left) and Lata Naik of Goa engaged in a tussle for possession during their senior National women's football championship match in Chennai on Sunday.
Manipur 1 Karnataka 0
Orissa 0 Goa 0
Without eight of its regular players, away with the Indian team for the AFC championship in Bangkok, Manipur perforce had to field its next best squad and the result showed as the champion State struggled for its narrow win in Group I. On the other hand, Orissa, looking technically superior, was unable to translate its domination into goals, enabling the plucky Goans to grab a point.
Undoubtedly, the second phase of the championship has begun on a promising note. There was variety on display with the Manipuri girls excelling in speedy moves and the Orissa girls pleasing everyone with their methodical approach, close passing bouts and good position play.
The biggest advantage that the two survivors of the first phase, Karnataka and Goa, had was that they had weathered enough odds the humid climate included in the last few days here.
What was striking about Karnataka's approach was its over-emphasis on defence to nullify the fast forays of its famed rival. Manipur is known for raising tall scores, and right from the start, the intention was clearly to keep that reputation intact. It attacked all through and the action was glued to the Karnataka end.
No praise is too high for the manner in which Faeza Begum, who turned a goalkeeper for Karnataka because the team's regular 'keeper was on the injury list, donned an unfamiliar role. She may not be a stylist but she did her bit for most of the first session in seeing that the ball did not pop out of her grasp significant considering the way substitute Malemnganbi Chanu kept crossing deftly and Manitombi Devi, Lokeshori Devi and Bala Devi repeatedly threatened her with charging runs.
Early in the second session, Faeza faced a crisp 25-yarder from Lokeshori and the Karnataka goalkeeper got her palms together to push the ball over the bar to earn a round of cheers from a fairly encouraging gathering. And the flag kick that followed fizzled out.
As minutes ticked by, Manipur looked a touch hustled. Going all out, Manipur left Karnataka the option to counterattack but the latter did not show the opportunism. If only Amoolya or Shiva Shankari, the team's prolific scorers, had not gone too far behind in defence, the script could have well been different. In the event, a relentless Manipuri frontline found success (71st minute) when substitute K. Phajabi Devi, taking a pass from Manitombi inside the box, made no mistake with a low angular drive that Faeza misjudged.
Having set the tone, it was Orissa's turn in Group II to fine-tune it further. Unlike Karnataka, Goa did not fall back but met move for move with confidence. Little Julie D'Silva is an eye-catching player, with her speed and ball control. Sadly, Goa did not have another player of her calibre to work in tandem; else, it could have wreaked havoc at the Orissa end. However, it was the cool and collected Orissa players who kept the Goan defence on high alert. Maria Gomes was an inspiration in the Goan defence.
Alert in defence and assured in midfield, where Thumki Munda, Indira Munda and Aruna Dibyadarsini showed a lot of imagination, Orissa had its attack moving with admirable regularity. Sudipta Dash, Pinky Bampal Magar and Sarita Jayanti Behere, on the far side, were the ones to come into focus. Still, when it came to firing a goalbound shot, the team sorely missed Shradanjali Samantaray, the previous championship's top scorer and one who is away with the Indian team.
Tale of missed chances
Orissa's plight worsened when opportunities went abegging repeatedly in the second session. First it was Sudipta and Aruna who combined only to fail at goalkeeper Concy Vaz's hands, then a Saritha long cross saw substitute Reshma Begun charging in well to the near post for the header but her short stature undid her enthusiasm.
And when everything seemed well with Pinky and Sudipta progressing and the former tapping the ball into the cage, the `goal' proved a false alarm as Referee Stephen Charles had already whistled for a foul. Till the very end, Orissa was near yet so far from getting that elusive goal. If there was an emotional feeling in the end, it was just that Orissa's best could not produce the desired result.
Monday's matches: Bihar v Maharashtra (2.45 p.m.); West Bengal v Assam (4.30 p.m.).
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