Thimpu, Aug 13 (IANS) India progressed to the semi-finals of the SAFF Under-15 Football Championship, defeating hosts Bhutan 1-0 at the Changlimithang Stadium here on Monday.
Shilky Devi’s 58th-minute strike proved to be the difference between the two teams in a match tightly contested where India rattled the bar twice.
With this win, India top Group A, winning both of their matches. India will face either Nepal or Bangladesh in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Although Bhutan started the game on an attacking note and dominated possession in the early minutes of the match, the Indian girls had an excellent opportunity to go ahead in the 13th minute but Kiran failed to make the most of her chance from inside the box.
In the 31st minute, India rattled the woodwork after Sunita Munda found Kritina Devi on the flanks with some crafty work. Kritina’s first time effort from long range hit the bar and came back into play, only for her to shoot wide off the resulting ball.
Five minutes later, Bhutan caught the Indian defence napping and hit the side netting from inside the box to give the Indians a scare.
Shilky Devi’s volley from inside the box in the 41st minute went inches over the bar as India continued to press the opponents. A stalemate ensued at half-time as both teams went into the tunnel on level pegging.
In the 55th minute, Avika Singh’s effort from a distance rattled the crossbar but India had to wait for the breakthrough that came three minutes later. Shilky Devi found the back of the opponent’s net with ease from inside the box with sheer composure in the 58th minute to give India the lead as the scoreline read 1-0.
India pressed to double their advantage and came close when Shilky’s shot missed the target. On the other end, the Indian defence had a busy day to stop Bhutan’s counter-attacks that came quite frequently.
Bhutan committed to attack to search for an equalising goal but the Indian defence shut the gates tight and held on to eke out a 1-0 win over the hosts.