Kolhapur, April 26 (IANS) Jharkhand and Haryana made their way into the semi-finals of the Junior Girls’ National Football Championships (NFC) with convincing wins over last year’s finalists Manipur and Tamil Nadu respectively at the Rajarshi Shahu Stadium here on Friday.
Sumati Kumar continued her free-scoring run, grabbing a brace in Jharkhand’s 4-0 triumph against Manipur while Haryana captain Raveena played a starring role in her team’s 4-0 win over Tamil Nadu.
Jharkhand, who came into the quarterfinal on the back of scoring a whopping 31 goals in their two group stage games, got a dream start against three-time champions Manipur as they opened the scoring in the second minute through Kuwari Indwar. The fans were still settling into their seats as Kuwari immaculately controlled a low cross from the left flank before shooting it past the opposing goalkeeper.
The match became an open encounter from the start as a result, with Manipur fashioning chances through L. Kipgen and Shilky Devi midway through the first half but Jharkhand keeper Sandhya Toppo was up to the task and made the saves. Manipur continued their search for the leveller but saw themselves fall further behind as Sumati scored her 14th goal in three matches.
In the 29th minute, captain Astam Oraon intercepted a ball in the middle of the park and played to Sumati, who slammed an unstoppable shot in the bottom corner. At the stroke of half time, Manipur were inches away from scoring but Priyangka Devi’s free-kick hit the crossbar and went out of play.
Three minutes into the second half, Oraon made it three for Jharkhand with a viciously swerving shot from long range that left the custodian with no chance. Manipur desperately searched for a foothold in the game but could not get past centre-halves Saraswati Kri and Sudha Tirkey. In the 87th minute, Sumati put the final nail in the coffin with another composed finish as she rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home to complete a 4-0 win.
Contrary to the first quarterfinal, the second one started off in a cagey manner as both sides threw punches but did not land a striking blow in the first quarter of the match. Both goalkeepers were tested a couple of times, with Tamil Nadu custodian Dhana Lakshmi looking confident with her handling and communication.
However, she could do little in the 31st minute as Haryana opened the scoring through winger Bali as a cross from the right wing sailed over the defenders and keeper to nestle into the back of the net. Just two minutes later, Haryana came close to doubling their lead as skipper Raveena fizzed in a delightful cross which evaded the onrushing strikers.
With the first half coming to a close, Tamil Nadu had two great chances to equalize but were denied at the last moment. In the 35th minute, Priyadharshini S jinked past two defenders and was set to shoot but was denied by a last-ditch sliding challenge. 10 minutes later, Mariyammal S whipped in a free-kick on target from the right but Haryana keeper Anshika dived across and pushed the ball onto the post before the defence scrambled it clear.
Haryana doubled their lead in the 49th minute with a classic set piece goal as Mamta headed the ball home first-time from a corner kick. They could have added a couple in the next six minutes as Raveena was denied in a one-on-one situation and then put her shot wide from eight yards out.
However, she was not be denied in the 64th minute as she raced into the box from the right and placed the ball into the far corner to make it 3-0. In the first minute of added time, she completed her hattrick with a deft finish – completing a fine win 4-0 for Haryana.