India 4 (Neha 54’, 80’, Sulanjana Raul 85’, Cindy Remruatpuii Colney 90+3’)
India booked their spot in the SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship final, after defeating Nepal 4-0 in their concluding round-robin match at the BSSSMK Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.
India will now cross swords with hosts and defending champions Bangladesh in the final to be played on Thursday, February 8, 2024. The Young Tigresses had earlier won their first match 10-0 against Bhutan, followed by a 0-1 defeat against Bangladesh.
After a goalless first half, Indian girls dished out a rousing display in the second session to slam in four goals. With the Indian forward line of Neha, Sibani Devi and Sulanjana Raul ripping open the rival defence at repeated intervals, Nepal were reduced to playing the second fiddle.
Winger Neha put in a fine performance, which also included a second-half brace, while Sulanjana Raul and substitute Cindy Temruatpuii Colney added two late goals to make it a comfortable win for India.
The Young Tigresses started on the front foot, most of their attacks coming down the left flank, where Neha used her pace to make headways. Her crosses were a constant menace for the Nepal defence, who had to break more than a sweat to deal with them.
Nepal goalkeeper Lila Joshi’s inability to deal with India’s centres also contributed to the general overload in the box, as she dropped the ball thrice in the opening exchanges. Sulanjana Raul, Sibani Devi, and Pooja, who were close at hand on the three occasions, failed to make the most of the opportunities.
Nepal right winger Senu Pariyar had their only chance of the afternoon when she was put through behind the Indian defence, but did not quite have the angle to follow through with her intent to shoot; she was eventually dispossessed.
India finally managed to get the breakthrough after the restart in the 54th minute, when Sibani’s left-footed cross found Neha at the far post, as she pushed it past the keeper to score from an extremely narrow angle.
That goal gave a lot of confidence to India, as more waves of attacks descended on the Nepal goal. Pooja, entering the box from the right, stepped past Nepal keeper Joshi and crossed it to Neha, who missed the target. A shot by Raul at the hour mark was cleared off the line by Divya Yasmali Magar.
Neha blasted one from inside the box as the ball came off the crossbar, and Sibani sent her shot off the rebound into the stands. Neha’s perseverance paid off a second time, when with 10 minutes of regulation time left on the clock, she received a pass from substitute Arina Devi, who had herself done well to side-step her marker. Instead of crossing, however, Neha laced her effort from outside the box as the ball curled into the top corner.
Raul, who had had plenty of opportunities throughout the match, finally scored the third goal of the game in the 85th minute. The movement, as usual, started with a Neha cross, which found Sibani at the far post. She sent it back across the face of the goal with her first touch as an unmarked Raul nodded it in from point-blank range. Substitute Cindy, who had replaced Raul, added a fourth goal in injury time.