Shillong, June 24: Mizoram survived some tense few moments to hold off Manipur for a 2-1 victory in the final of the boys’ division of the Assam Rifles CAPF Under-19 Football Talent Hunt Tournament at the JN Stadium here today, while in the earlier game Manipur girls beat Meghalaya 1-0 to emerge as champions.

Before the start of the match Director General of Assam Rifles, Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan encouraged both teams in a short speech. The Chief Guest for the occasion, the Governor of Mizoram, Lt Gen (retd) Nirbhay Sharma, commended Assam Rifles for their successful hosting of the tournament and wished the players the very best.

In the morning final Meghalaya played exceptionally well, but Manipur’s defence proved to be too strong and the team that had not conceded even once all tournament continued on in the final, maintaining a clean sheet by denying the hosts any chance to score.

Meghalaya, too, defended well against a Manipur side that had scored an average of six goals in each of their previous matches. However, in the 47th minute A Roja Devi secured the breakthrough that proved to be decisive.

As both finals featured the top two teams from the group stage it was no surprise that the matches were hard fought encounters.

The boys’ trophy match was equally exciting with Mizoram coming from a goal down to snatch victory and deny Manipur a double triumph.

Played under gloriously sunny skies, Manipur’s defence made a couple of early errors, but Mizoram were unable to capitalise. Manipur finally made their opponents pay for those missed opportunities when K Omesh Singh fired a shot off a chipped ball that beat the diving Mizoram goalkeeper to the latter’s left.

The momentum swung back Mizoram’s way, however, when Manipur committed a foul in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. A Manipur player was also sent off during this time for an infraction. The penalty was converted by Vanlallawma in the 28th minute, and the No. 19 seized the lead for his state just a minute later following a long throw-in.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Manipur looked like the stronger side in the second half and put Mizoram’s citadel under constant pressure, but the eventual winners held on by the skin of their teeth until the final whistle.

The match experience for the thousands of fans was augmented by live screens and top quality video services displaying the action on the pitch. A rousing performance by the Assam Rifles’ mass band and a glittering cultural dance fusion celebrating the North East were held after the match.

The winners take home a cheque of Rs 1 lakh and an exquisite trophy named in honour of North East football legend, the late Dr Talimeran Ao. The runners-up received Rs 60,000.

The two winning teams will also take part in phase three of the nationwide Oorja tournament, organised at the initiative of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in New Delhi next month.

(Photos contributed by Assam Rifles)

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