India and Bangladesh were declared joint winners of the SAFF Under-19 Women's Championship after huge controversy on Thursday. In the penalty shoot-out, the teams were tied 11-11, after which India was declared the winner by coin toss, but the decision was not accepted by the crowd or the Bangladesh team. There were huge protests from the team and the home crowd and after some time it was decided to declare both India and Bangladesh as joint winners. The match ended 1-1 at stipulated time and after India was declared the winner, the crowd expressed their displeasure by throwing bottles and other objects. The officials immediately evacuated the Indian players from the field and after about two hours of deliberations, the decision was taken to award the trophy to both the teams.
AIFF acting general secretary M Satyanarayana said, “Despite being declared winners after the coin toss, India decided to accept the officials' request to share the trophy as the situation was tense and a section of the domestic fans was found to be involved ” To cause disturbance. “Since the safety of the players and other team officials is our top priority, the AIFF has decided to agree to the request of the organisers.”
With the help of Sibani Devi Nongmeikapam's opening goal, India remained ahead for most of the match, but Sagorika equalized for the hosts through a penalty in injury time. After an extraordinary shoot-out, which remained tied at 11–11 as every single player on the pitch converted their penalties, the referee tossed a coin to determine the winners.
While Bangladesh gave India the lead in the first half, the Young Tigresses were more aggressive going forward. When Sulanjana Raul left Neha in acres of space before snatching the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Swarna Rani Mandal in the second minute, it was a sign of things to come.
Obviously, the final generated considerable interest in local football circles. With Bangladesh likely to win the title twice in a row, a huge crowd had gathered at the stadium much before the start of the final.
They came with drums, flags and banners. However, the celebratory mood of the partisan crowd got a surprise blow when India took the lead with another well-made move as captain Neetu Linda showed exemplary vision to drop Sibani behind the Bangladesh defence. The fast winger was so smart that he dodged the attacking Swarna for the first time. Sibani could only score another goal a few minutes later, as his half-volley went inches over the crossbar.
However, India failed to defend their lead and conceded an equalizing goal in extra time of the second half. Linda's headed clearance fell into the path of Sagorika, who fired past Anika, who was a carbon copy of her goal against India in the group stage in the exact same minute – the 93rd minute.
For the rest of the match, Raul was efficient in his role as the false nine, feeding Neha and Sibani repeatedly on the overlap. His sharp turns and fast steps often left the host frustrated.
India defended strongly, leaving Bangladesh with no option but to try their luck from distance. Sapna Rani first sent a 25-yard shot high and wide before hitting her second effort on target, which was easily collected by Anika Devi Sharubam for her first save of the match.
For large parts of the second half, India were more likely to get a second goal than Bangladesh to equalise. In the 54th minute, the Young Tigresses had a great chance when Sibani picked out Neha with a diagonal ball into the box. Neha tried to keep it for puja, but Swarna quickly collected it before it could reach its end.
Neha remained in trouble for the rest of the match. A few minutes later, his cross from the left was headed wide by Raul. Corners have been Bangladesh's strong suit throughout the tournament and they also posed a threat to them. First, Soorma Jannat headed the ball to Sapna, before Sapna hit the crossbar straight from her inswinging corner.
At the other end, Neha also struck with her left foot from the edge of the box in the 88th minute. It was India's last chance to seal the deal in the stipulated time as Bangladesh restored parity just five minutes later.
Every one of India's starting eleven players successfully converted their penalties in the shoot-out, including goalkeeper Anika, who scored the 11th and final goal. Bangladesh were equally clinical but Anika felt that luck was not on her side as she jumped correctly for six of her 11 shots but could not save.
(With ANI inputs)
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