India 10 (Sibani Devi 8’, 19, 36’, Pooja 31’, 58’, 59’, 90+4’, Sulanjana Raul 53’, Menaka Lourembam 61’, Arina Devi 73’)
AIFF Media Team
DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Absolute dominance was the name of the game for the India U-19 Women’s Team, who began their SAFF U-19 Women’s Championship campaign with a 10-0 victory against Bhutan at the BSSSMK Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, February 2, 2024. The winners led 4-0 at the half-time.
Pooja and Sibani Devi were the stars of the show, with the former scoring four goals and the latter netting a first-half hat-trick. Meanwhile, striker Sulanjana Raul and substitutes Menaka Lourembam and Arina Devi added three more to take India’s tally into double figures.
Goalkeeper Anika Devi and substitute Arina Devi made their junior international debuts against Bhutan on Friday.
India began the match with the clear intent of outscoring their opponents. Bhutan looked to overload the middle with more bodies in their efforts to halt the India attacks. However, that gave the Young Tigresses enough space on the flanks to exploit.
Neha was particularly unstoppable down the left, and it was her efforts that helped earn the early opening for India. Her cross from the left glanced past Raul before Sibani Devi, charging in from the opposite wing, looped it into the goal.
The second goal came in almost a similar fashion; a good cross by Neha was aimed at Pooja, who glanced it with her shoulder, before Sibani charged in again to double the lead. Pooja soon turned scorer, capitalising on an error by Bhutan goalkeeper Pema Yangzom, whom she dispossessed in the box, before putting it into an empty goal.
India’s fourth was perhaps the best goal of the evening, where captain Nitu Linda, surrounded by opponents in the middle of the park, produced a defence-splitting through ball that sent Sibani behind the Bhutan defence, beating the offside trap. With Yangzom rushing at her, Sibani chipped it over the Bhutan keeper to complete her hat-trick in the 36th minute.
The Young Tigresses began the second half with the intent to finish any hopes of a comeback by Bhutan, and it was again Neha’s creation that brought the first goal of the second half. She beat her marker, sprinted up the left flank, and hung the ball across the face of the goal as Sulanjana headed it in.
Pooja soon completed her own hat-trick with two quick goals, which came because of defensive errors, and added one more in injury time to take her tally to four goals. Substitutes Menaka Lourembam and Arina Devi added two more in between to take India’s tally to 10 goals.
India play their next match against Bangladesh on Sunday, February 4, with the kick-off slated to be at 6.30 pm IST; the match will be streamed live on the Sportzworkz YouTube channel.
India U-19s: Anika Devi (GK), Nitu Linda (c), Sonibia Devi, Sahena Th, Thoibisana Chanu, Viksit Bara, Pooja, Lalita Boypai (Menaka Lourembam 46’), Sulanjana Raul (Arina Devi 62’), Neha, Sibani Devi.