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SAFF Women's Championship: India blank Pakistan 3-0 in opener

Kathmandu (Nepal), Sep 7 (IANS) Defending champions India opened their SAFF Women’s Championship campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over Pakistan at the Dasarath Stadium, here on Wednesday.

An own goal from rival captain Maria Jamil Khan, and an opportunistic strike from Dangmei Grace in the first-half effectively settled the issue in favour of India. A late goal from Soumya Guguloth completed the rout in added time.

With this win, India extended their unbeaten run to 27 matches in the Championship. They will next play Maldives on Saturday.

The Blue Tigresses were dominant almost throughout, not much willing to part ways with the ball. They preferred to stretch it through the flanks, and Anu Tamang was omnipresent in the middle, essaying it to the strikers upfront with her defence splitting passes.

However, despite the domination, the first goal that fell India’s way in the 15th minute was a rather lucky one — an own goal from rival captain Maria Jamila Khan.

Sandhiya, operating down the left, sent in a cross which goalkeeper Shahid Bukhari managed to get a hand to while diving to her left. The rebound hit onrushing Maria’s leg and rolled into the net.

The second goal, nevertheless, came straight out of the drawing board. Collecting the ball just outside the box, Anju, caught in between a jungle of legs, set it up for an unmarked Dangmei Grace with her left foot. Grace received it, and slipped it between Shahid and the near post to give India a 2-0 lead.

India came close to adding another in the 29th minute, but even as Ranjana’s left footer beat Shahid under the bar, it hit the post.

Changing over, India earned their first corner in the 55th minute. Off the counter, Pakistan earned a free-kick outside the Indian box, but Indian goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan collected Maria’s shot with effortless ease.

With the Indians pressing hard, Pakistan were not able to break the shackles and go all out into attack. Instead, they preferred to stay back and defend, with the sole Zulfia Nazir waiting upfront around the centre circle.

But the Blue Tigresses weren’t much able to make use of the series of corners earned all throughout. In the 74rd minute, Sandhiya evaded her marker and laid it for Anju to have a crack at the goal. But the rival defence recovered faster, denying Anju to have a look.

Four minutes later, Anju was quicker to reach for the ball over Maria inside the box. But her snap left-footer narrowly missed the target. Soumya made it 3-0 in added time, clinically finishing Ranjana’s cross from the left.

–IANS

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