The India U-20 Women’s National Team are staring down the barrel of elimination from the SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship after suffering a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Nepal at the Mostafa Kamal Stadium here on Tuesday.
India stand on four points from three games after the Group Stage, while Nepal sit on six points from as many matches. Bangladesh, who are set to play Bhutan later in the day, also sit on four points, and need a draw to make it to the final.
It was a tale of two halves, as India started the match on the front foot, but Nepal clawed back in the second half. Apurna Narzary had put India in the lead early on, but a goal each from Anjali Chand, Preeti Rai, and Amisha Karki meant that Nepal secured their spot in the final.
After a number of forays into the opposition third, India broke the deadlock through Narzary, when she finished off a move that can only be termed as a team effort. Kajol Dsouza drove with the ball into the attacking third and played it wide to Sumati Kumari on the left, who whipped a low cross across goal for the striker to tap in from point blank range.
Despite the flurry of Indian attacks, Amisha Karki looked dangerous for Nepal in the first half, though she was unable to score.
The passing intent that India showed seemed to have somewhat fizzed out in the second half, as Nepal pressed high and did not let the Indian midfielders any moment on the ball. In the end, it was an error by goalkeeper Anshika, that gave the Himalayan nation its first goal. India goalkeeper Anshika tried to clear the ball under some pressure, but hit it straight at Amisha; Chand got on the rebound and put it into an empty net.
Nepal kept troubling the Indian midfield, and were soon awarded a penalty after Astam Oraon was deemed to have made a dangerous tackle inside the box in the 69th minute. Captain Preeti Rai stepped up to the spot and slammed it home despite the fact that Anshika had dived in the correct direction.
With a little under 15 minutes of regulation time left on the clock, Shilky’s long ball into the Nepal box created some tension as Kajol tried to control it, but Nepal keeper Kabita stepped out and brought it under her control.
Amisha Karki secured the win for Nepal with just a minute of regulation time left, when she tapped in a low cross by Preeti Rai, to make the score 3-1 in Nepal’s favour.
India head coach Maymol Rocky said after the match, “It’s quite sad that we started well, but we went lower and lower. Nepal got a penalty, which was of course not good for us, and then the girls started slowing down. Overall, we played well in the tournament, but we probably could not make it to the final, which was the saddest part for us.”