A half-time pep talk and a change in tactics helped underdogs Tamil Nadu upset fancied Haryana in a stunning 3-2 come from behind victory, storming into the girls football final of the Khelo India Youth Games 2021 on Friday.
They will face Jharkhand who blanked Gujarat 3-0 in the other semi-final through first-half goals. Tamil Nadu has incidentally lost 0-6 to Jharkhand in the league phase of the tournament.
In a thrilling semi-final played at the Panjab University ground, champions Haryana deservingly went two goals up through Nisha who scored in the last minute of the first half and Aarti who doubled the lead in added time.
However, Tamil Nadu coach S Gokila refused to throw in the towel. “I told my players all is not lost. This is just half-time and we still have another 45 minutes to go. You score one goal and then add another in the next five minutes,” she revealed.
Gokila also moved Mahalaxmi from the right wing to centre-forward position and the commerce student from AVS College in Salem responded with a brace in the 53rd and 68th minutes to help the southerners draw level.
Just when the game was headed for a tie-breaker, Tamil Nadu, who troubled the hosts with their sporadic raids, got the match-winner through another such foray in the 91st minute. Yuva Rani, a BA economics student of SDNB College and the daughter of daily wage earners, bundled in the ball with the shell-shocked Haryanvis in disarray.
The hosts have only themselves to blame for their defeat despite being the better team and impressing with their possession play and neat short passes. They squandered a few sitters in the second half.
In the other semi-final, a brace by Babita Kumari in the 26th and 38th minutes and another goal by Alpha Kandulna two minutes later helped Jharkhand score a facile 3-0 win over Gujarat.