Players of India and Maldives fight for the ball during a football match of the SAFF Women Championship at the Shahid Stadium in Biratnagar on Wednesday. (Right) Members of Maldives national women’s football team sing their national anthem before the match. Photo: Chuman Basnet/Republica
BIRATNAGAR, March 14: Defending champion India’s Sanju scored a brace for the team’s commanding first win of group B inaugural match in the ongoing South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women Championship at Shahid Stadium in Biratnagar on Wednesday. In the one-sided affair, India went up 5-0 in the first half itself before winning the match 6-0 by the full time.
India outplayed Maldives on all fronts -- attacks and defense -- to take lead in just eight minutes to get going through midfielder Grace Dangmei. Sandhiya Ranganathan, who was left unmarked inside the box found the net in the 13th minute doubling the lead for India.
The Indian team looked irresistible, racing to a 4-0 lead just under 27 minutes, and exemplified total dominance in the match against a week opponent from South Asia.
Ratnabalo Devi added to Maldives’ misery converting a spectacular free kick in the 45+4 minutes during the first half’s extra time to give India 5-0 lead by the half time. Indumathi Kathiresan scored in the 22nd minute before Sanju scored her first of the brace at the 27th minute for the most successful women’s team in the history of SAFF.
Maldives had no answer to India’s attacking movement and passing, and a much improved second half performance was not enough to avoid a crushing defeat for the team. Maldives did offer some fight in the second half but Sanju effectively killed the match in the 90th minute with her second and team’s fifth goal of the match.
India goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan hardly had any trouble in the match as Maldives defense led by skipper Faduwa Zahir struggled to cope with the fluent Indian attacks that looked to score almost every time they moved the ball in the final third.
India has won all the four editions of the SAFF so far. Maldives failed to match the physical and tactical prowess presented by India.
India coach Maymol Rocky expressed her satisfaction in the comfortable win against the Maldives. “It feels satisfactory that players played in a proper tactical way which resulted in a big win. I am happy with the performance of the midfielders. They made the win possible with their balanced game.”
Despite the huge loss, Maldives coach Abdullah Yasmin was satisfied with the performance of the team. “We had to make many changes in the defense, as many as five, due to injuries. Given that, I think my team played rather satisfying game at the back.”
The coach was looking forward to the Sri Lanka match. “We will have most of our players returning for the match against Sri Lanka and I hope the team will be able to give a much better performance.”
In a dramatic incident ahead of the match, the management of Shahid Stadium failed to play
Maldives official national anthem -- a regular norm in the international matches. The stadium was able to play only India’s anthem.
In a desperate attempt to avoid the shame, officials provided microphones to Maldives extra players on the bench to sing the anthem on the loudspeaker to complete the formalities, which delayed the match by five minutes.