Olympic qualifiers: India women defeat Nepal 3-1 to top group

India defeated Nepal in its second match in Group A and tops the group with six points from two matches.

Sandhiya Ranganathan (18) put India back in the lead in the 59th minute with a header from a corner.   -  AIFF Media Team

The India women’s national team moved to the top of Group A after it defeated Nepal 3-1 in round two of the Olympic Qualifiers at the Mandalarthiri Stadium in Mandalay, Myanmar on Saturday.

India has six points from two matches, with host Myanmar scheduled to play later in the day against Indonesia.

A Punam Magar own goal gave India the lead in the sixth minute, but it cancelled out by Niru Thapa’s strike in the seventh. However, Sandhiya Ranganathan’s header in the 60th minute and skipper Ashalata Devi’s 78th-minute penalty led India to a hard-fought win.

Speaking after the match, skipper Ashalata Devi said, “We wanted to win this match and I am happy that I could contribute for my team with a goal. Nepal are always a tough opponent to face so this win is all the more sweeter.”

“We are very happy to go into the last match (against Myanmar) on a winning momentum and now our focus shifts towards that," added Sandhiya Ranganathan

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With Grace and Sanju on the wings, terrorizing opposition defenders, the first few minutes of the match played out in India’s favour. A goal came in the seventh minute when Nepal’s Punam Magar slid the ball into her own net after a cross from Sanju.

However, the Indian defenders were caught off-guard in the next minute as Niru Thapa equalized, tapping home from inside the box to level proceedings.

Sanju hit the post from inside the box in the ninth minute as the Indian women looked to regain their lost lead. Ratanbala Devi had a golden chance to give India the lead again in the 25th minute but her header off a Sanju cross went inches wide of goal.

With end-to-end action enveloping the early minutes of the match, the game evolved into a battle for possession in the midfield with the Indian midfielders dominating and the opponents relying on counter-attacks.

In the 58 minute, Dalima Chhibber attempt to slyly tuck a curling shot into the corner of the net from inside the box but her attempt which inches wide of the goal as Nepal survived another Indian attack.

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A minute later, Ratanbala was found inside the box by Grace’s low cross but her attempt resulted in a weak shot that was swept out. From the resulting corner, Sandhiya headed home from close range to put India back in the lead.

Nepal tried to commit bodies in attack and look for a way to equalize. Attempts by Sabitra Bhandari and Dipa Rai went inches away from the Indian post.

Some resolute defending in the latter stage of the match by the centre back pairing of Sweety and skipper Ashalata Devi, saw the match out for India and the skipper got on the scoresheet, converting a penalty in the 78th minute to double India’s lead as the full-time scoreline read 3-1.