NEW DELHI: Tamil Nadu came back from a goal down in the second half to defeat Haryana 2-1 and clinch their second Hero Senior Women’s National Football Championship title at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Amritsar, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023.
After a first half where Tamil Nadu enjoyed more possession, while Haryana created more chances, it looked like the latter would have a good chance of winning their maiden Hero Senior women’s NFC title after an own goal by Dhurga P. However, some concerted pressure by the state from south India earned them their second title, with the goals being scored by Priyadharshini S and Indumathi Kathiresan.
AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey presented the prizes. Mr. Priya Thapar, Vice President, Punjab Football Association, was present on the occasion.
Haryana started both halves with a better tempo, while Tamil Nadu took some time to get their momentum. Rajnibala got into a dangerous position in the second minute, but her shot went over.
Shreya Hooda, after her heroics in the semi-final, was in form in the summit clash yet again, as she denied Sandhiya Ranganathan on the quarter-hour mark.
Haryana striker Renu played as the target up front, often holding the ball up, waiting for reinforcements to arrive, mostly, in the form of Tanu. The former was a nuisance for the Tamil Nadu defence, and in the 19th minute, produced a fine first touch to bring down an aerial ball and laid it off to Tanu, whose shot went wide.
Tanu had another crack at the Tamil Nadu goal a little after the half-hour mark when she scampered into the box from the right and pulled the trigger, but this time, it was straight at TN keeper Devi D.
The side from North India began the second half with a high tempo and hustled their way into the lead, five minutes after the restart.
Renu, a constant nuisance for the Tamil Nadu defence, made her way into the box from the right and sent a cross across the face of the goal. The ball hit Dhurga P’s shin and went in, giving Haryana the lead.
Tamil Nadu immediately got on the attack, and Indumathi curled one from the edge of the area that needed a fingertip save by Hooda.
However, Tamil Nadu had to wait till the second half for the equaliser, as substitute Nandhini’s 56th-minute corner was powerfully nodded in by Priyadharshini.
That goal gave Tamil Nadu a lot of attacking impetus, as they looked for the elusive lead. However, some heroic defending by Ritu Rani and her girls meant that Tamil Nadu were restricted to shots from outside the box.
With a little over 20 minutes of regulation time left, Indumathi played it to Priyadharshini inside the box, but the latter’s half-volley went over.
Minutes later, Karthika Angamuthu sent in a searching aerial cross into the six-yard box. Although Hooda seemed to have misjudged the line of the ball, she did manage to get a hand to it, and eventually sprung her torso on top of the rebound, to smother the ball.
It was a moment of magic from Tamil Nadu’s star midfielder Indumathi Kathiresan that eventually gave the lead to the South Indian state. Latching on to the ball close to the half line, Indumathi marched into the attacking third, and passed to Priyadharshini, before losing her market and dashing into the box, where the ball was played back to her. Parmila slid in, Indumathi went down, and off went the referee’s whistle, for a penalty.
Indumathi calmly stepped up to the spot and sent her International teammate Shreya Hooda the wrong way, to put her side in the lead.
Haryana threw bodies forward in the last few minutes, looking for the equaliser. Their main aim was to put long aerial balls into the opposition area, hoping for their forwards to get behind the defence. Tamil Nadu, however, saw right through the plan and dropped their defence line deep.
Renu had a great opportunity to pull her side level in injury time when an indirect free-kick was awarded to Haryana from inside the Tamil Nadu box after goalkeeper Devi D had hung on to the ball longer than the stipulated six seconds. The Haryana striker laced the lay-off with her right foot, but sent it well over.
Haryana’s hopes of a maiden Hero Senior Women’s National Football Championship title faded away with every tick of the clock, and Tamil Nadu’s celebrations soon began. They bowed down in the centre circle in one huddle, to invoke their thanks to the Almighty, and then soon joined the local cheerleaders in the famous Bhangra dance of Punjab.