ISLAMABAD - Soccer queen Ngangom Bala Devi’s fantastic four goals helped India demolish Nepal 6-0 in the final of the 3rd SAFF Women's Football Championship to defend their title for the third time in a row.  In the final played here at Jinnah Stadium, Pakistan Sports Complex on Friday, India started on a slow pace, which allowed Nepal to create some lovely moves in the first quarter of the match. Nepal twice came close from taking lead, but were denied by Indian captain Onam Bembem Devi, who remained instrumental in the defence and ensured her intact their clean sheet in the championship.
The first real chance for the defending champions came in the 19th minute, when Ngangom hammered a forceful shot after dogging two defenders, but Nepal goalie easily stopped the powerfully struck shot. The breakthrough finally came for the Indians in the 25th minute, when Ngangom unselfishly pass the ball to Yumnam Kamala Devi who net the ball successfully. There were celebrations among strong Indian crowd, who were enjoying the support of not only their high commission families, school kids, but also Pakistan national team players. After that, Ngangom scored her first and team’s second goal in the 39th minute, while the third came in the 41st minute superbly converted by Ngangom. The first half ended with Indians comfortably leading 3-0.
It was one-way traffic in the entire second half. Nepal coach was left with no other option but to replace first error-prone goalie Chandra Devi with Okram Roshni Devi and soon after the break, inspirational skipper Anu Lama was forced to leave the field as she was carrying severe injury. All hopes of any Nepal resistance also died with her exit.
The fourth Indian goal was netted by Irom Prameshwori in the 47th minute and then Ngangom completed her hat-trick in the 59th minute through a delightful goal which was one of the best goals witnessed in the entire championship. Indians then slowed down the pace of the match, and just wanted to play long balls and not trying to score more goals. It was very hard to absolve for the passionate crowd, who were bucking up Indians to score more goals and chanted slogans in their favour. The goal line was finally completed in the 90+1 minute, when Ngangom scored her fourth goal to steer her team to impressive 6-0 victory.
Soon after the sensational triumph, top Indian delegates from Indian High Commission along with their families rushed to the field and hugged the winning players, who raised their national flag and thanked the crowd for their outstanding support. Nepal team especially captain Anu was especially looked heartbroken and tried her level best to stop tears pouring out.
AFC president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa was the chief guest at the final and witnessed the entire match along with Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada. PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, AFC family big wigs, dignitaries, ambassadors, high commission officers and sizable crowd were also present on the occasion. The chief guest awarded gold medals to the Indian team and silver medals to Nepal team. Indian skipper Onam Bembem Devi along with star of the event Ngangom received the trophy from the chief guests.
Talking to The Nation, Indian head coach Tarun Roy said: “We changed the planning as we didn't want to pile more misery on the Nepal team. We were quite satisfied with the score line. I am very satisfied with the love, respect and hospitality of Pakistanis and their national team’s support for us was the best thing ever in this event. We will bring back sweet memories from Pakistan and are looking forward to come and play again here. I want to thank deputy director hostels Malik Imtiaz Hussain for taking good care of all the visiting teams, as we were provided whatever we demanded. I would love to witness Indian cricket and other teams to come to Pakistan and play a bilateral series against Pakistan.”
Sharing his views, Faisal Saleh Hayat said: “The successful conduct of the championship is a clear indication that Pakistan is completely safe for all kinds of sporting activities. I hope now we will be given the rights to host more high-profile events. I am sure these visiting teams will portray the soft and actual picture of Pakistan. It was for the very first time that the AFC president and entire top brass were present in Pakistan, which shows their confidence in the PFF and the security being provided to them.”