Mizoram beat Sikkim to lift the Dr. T. Ao Trophy at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima.
A strike by David Lalrinmuana in the 75th minute proved to be the winner for Mizoram who lifted their third Dr. T. Ao Trophy.
Hosts Nagaland beat Arunachal Pradesh 4-2 to claim the prize for third place.
The legend named Dr. T. Ao
Talimeren Ao was the captain of the India national football team and the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent in the 1948 Summer Olympics.
This was the first official football game for India since the birth of the new nation.
He played as a defender for Mohun Bagan for nine years before choosing to hang up his boots to pursue a career in medicine. He is reportedly the first person of Naga descent to hold an MBBS degree.
Dr. Ao returned to his roots to fulfill his father’s wish of serving Naga people as a doctor, despite the myriad temptations of a comfortable life in the cities
Much revered across the northeastern region, Talimeren Ao is the closest Nagaland may have had to be termed as a national hero.
Fittingly, the first tournament was hosted by Nagaland in November 2009 and after a hiatus of four years, the ninth edition of the tournament has returned to the home of Dr. Ao.
The 2019/20 edition featured U-21 teams from the eight states of the northeastern region of India. Manipur have lifted the trophy six times (09, ’10, ’12, ’13, ’15, 16), while Mizoram had won it twice (’11 & ’14).
Group A: Nagaland go top; Arunachal edge Manipur
Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura formed Group A.
In the curtain-raiser, Nagaland beat Arunachal Pradesh 4-1, while Manipur thrashed Tripura 11-0.
The second round saw Arunachal Pradesh hold Manipur to a 1-1 draw. M Clinton Singh’s strike at the half-hour mark canceled out Charu Lalum’s opener in the 27th minute. In the other match, Nagaland thrashed Tripura 13-0 to go top of the group.
In the final round, Arunachal Pradesh beat Tripura 16-0 to gather four points in the round. In the crucial encounter, Khwetelhi Thopi inspired Nagaland to a 3-2 win over Manipur. The hosts rode on the skipper’s brace to knock out the six-time winner.
Nagaland topped the group with 9 points, while Arunachal came in second with 4 points. A healthy goal difference (GD) of +13 goal helped Arunachal edge out Manipur’s GD of +10 goals.
Group B: Sikkim remain unbeaten; Mizoram book semifinal berth
Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, and Meghalaya formed Group B.
In the first round, Dom Tshering Lepcha’s strike in the 75th minute helped Sikkim beat Assam by a solitary goal, while Mizoram scored three goals in the last six minutes to beat Meghalaya 6-0.
The second round saw Dawa Sherpa scored in injury time for Sikkim to cancel out Atlanson Kharmaw’s strike as Sikkim held Meghalaya to a 1-1 draw. Mizoram had an easier outing as they beat Assam 4-0.
The final round saw Dawanchwa Carlos Challam and Samuel J. L. Kynshi bag hattricks as Meghalaya beat Assam 8-1. The group standing was decided after Sikkim edged out Mizoram 2-1 to go top of the group with seven points, while Mizoram ended on six.
Semifinal 1: Mizoram come from behind to beat Nagaland
In the first semifinal, Mizoram beat host team Nagaland 2-1 to book a place in the finals.
Despite a bright start in the tournament, sloppy defending cost Nagaland a slot in the finals. A moment of brilliance from Rhitsho Mero put the hosts ahead in the 18th minute. Mizoram fought back to equalize through Chhangte’s header in the 42nd minute.
Four minutes into the second half, Mizoram took the lead through Malsawmfela. The Mizoram defensive shape closed all the gaps for the hosts and played on the counter. In the end, the match ended 2-1 in favor of Mizoram.
Semifinal 2: Super-sub Milan Chettri wins it in extra time
Sikkim defeated Arunachal Pradesh by 3-1 in the extra time in the second semi-final match.
Arunachal Pradesh should have taken the lead in the first half but R.D Karma’s weak penalty was saved by the Sikkim goalie Urgen Pintso Sherpa.
Kintup Ongpo Lachungpa scored the first goal in the 59th minute for Sikkim, while Tapi Hakhe found the equalizer in the 78th minute as the match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
In the extra time, substitute Milan Chettri scored in the 100th minute and added another in the 112th minute to end the match 3-1 in favor of Sikkim.
Nagaland pip Arunachal to third place
The third place match between Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh finished 4-2 in favor of the hosts.
Rhitsho Mero continued his good form as he scored two goals (31’, 45’) for the team to take his tally to 10 goals, while Khwetelhi Thopi (9’, 88’) also struck twice in the match.
Tarh Dolu (35’) and R. D. Karma (51’) scored for the Arunachal team.
David Lalrinmuana wins the finals for Mizoram
A goalless first half saw Mizoram dominated the proceedings with midfielder Lalchungnunga Chhangte at the helm. Sikkim goalie Nindup Lepcha came up with a couple of spectacular saves to keep his team in the game.
The Sikkimese defense was breached in the 75th minute with a long-range shot from Aizawl FC midfielder David Lalrinmuana. Sikkim could have equalized six minutes later but Sonam Tshering Lepcha shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Mizoram nullified the rest of Sikkim’s attack to lift the Dr. T Ao Trophy. With this win, Mizoram has won the trophy three times. They also won it in 2011 and 2014.
Sikkim had also reached the finals in 2011 and 2016. They had to be content with the runners-up medal for the third time.
The champions were awarded a cheque of Rs.10 lakh, while the runners-up received Rs.6 lakhs. Host team Nagaland received Rs 2 lakh and Arunachal Pradesh, the other semifinalist, pocketed Rs.1 lakh.
The player of the tournament received Rs. 25,000 while the winners of other individual awards received Rs.10,000 each.
Mizoram’s coach and manager received Rs.15,000 each, while Sikkim’s team manager and coach pocketed Rs.10,000 each. The winners of the fair play award received Rs. 50,000.
The individual awards were awarded to the following:
- Player of the Final: David Lalrinmuana (Mizoram)
- Player of the Tournament: Lalchungnunga Chhangte (Mizoram)
- Best Goalkeeper: Urgen Pintso Sherpa (Sikkim)
- Best Defender: Hemping (Nagaland)
- Best Midfielder: Kilpo Namgyal Barfungpa (Sikkim)
- Best Forward: Malsawmfela (Mizoram)
- Highest Scorer: Rhitsho Mero (Nagaland) with 10 goals
- Fair Play Award: Arunachal Pradesh
(With inputs from Eastmojo.com, The Nagaland Post, Nagaland.gov.in)