FULL-TIME: India 1-2 Nepal
India: 83′ (Ratan Bala Devi)
Nepal: 4′ (Sabitra Bhandari); 6′ (Sabitra Bhandari).
India were left to rue goalkeeping errors and ended up going down to a much less-fancied Nepal side who showed enough gumption to pick up a deserved win.
The Indian women’s team had their backs to the wall early on in the game after they conceded in the fourth and sixth minute. Sabitra Bhandari latched onto a ball from the Nepali fullback Hira and hit a low shot at goal. The Indian captain and goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan got her hands on the ball, but it went past her and trickled into the goal.
Literally minutes later, India conceded a second goal. Anju Tamang failed to clear the ball in the box and a Nepali low cross in the box from the right slid through Aditi Chauhan at her near post. Sabitra pounced on the loose ball half a yard from the goal line and smashed it in.
The Indian team desperately tried to claw their way back into the game, but most of their attempts were from distance and off target. Anju Tamang had a great chance to pull a goal back, but her attempt in the box was off-target as Indian went into the half-time break trailing by two goals.
For much of the second half India were not able to create clear cut chances. They had a great chance in the 54th minute falling to Anju Tamang, but she shot just wide from six yards out. The Nepali players harried and rushed the Indian team high up the pitch and India lost possession often. Under pressure, the Indian build up play was non-existent and they resorted to long balls and expansive passes, but the Nepalese defence were upto the task.
With 20 minutes to go for full-time, India gradually began to find their feet in the game and started winning the ball in midfield. They should’ve scored in a mad goal mouth scramble in the 73rd minute – Dangmei Grace’s cross from the right blank found Sandhya who headed it straight to the keeper from four yards. The keeper lost control of the ball as it went onto hit the post and the rebound attempt by Sanju was cleared off the line.
India did manage to pull a goal back from a Ratan Bala free kick just outside the box which hit the underside of the post before going in. There was a bit of a mad rush as India tried to force the issue, but it just wasn’t their day as Nepal held on to pickup a win and throw the round robin stage wide open.
Nepal lost to Myanmar on the opening day and Myanmar beat Iran in the tie yesterday. India won against Iran and with tonight’s loss to Nepal, India and Nepal are on the same boat with a win and a loss. The last of the round robin fixtures on Feb 13 before the final will see India take on Myanmar and Nepal up against Iran. With Iran’s form not on par with the rest of the participating teams India will have to win against Myanmar to stand a chance to qualify for the final.