Yangon, Nov 9:
The Indian senior women’s team opened its 2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Nepal here on Thursday.
The first half was an open affair with India creating more chances than Nepal. However, they did not have the best of starts as centre-back Sweety Devi was forced off due to injury in just the eighth minute and was replaced by Manisha Panna.
With the Indian defence still finding its feet after Sweety’s injury, the Nepalese forwards made the most of the situation as captain Niru Thapa scored from close range thanks to a low ball from the left flank.
India immediately responded to the early setback and created a flurry of chances in the next few phases of play with Grace Dangmei exerting a lot of influence down the right wing and Sanju, Anju Tamang and Bala Devi all coming close to opening the scoring for Maymol Rocky’s side.
In the 29th minute, coach Rocky made a tactical switch by replacing Anju with the experienced Kamala Devi. The move paid rich dividends as Kamala levelled the score for India after some excellent play by Sanju from the left as she cut past her marker and delivered an inch-perfect cross.
The second half saw India start off on the front foot as Kamala’s volley from the penalty box arc went inches over the bar. At the hour mark, keeper Aditi Chauhan proved her worth yet again with a fine save as she denied Nepal striker Sabitra from just eight yards out.
In the 67th minute, Nepal launched an attack down the right and looked to get the ball in a dangerous situation but Ratanbala Devi, who came on in the 55th minute, produced a terrific tackle inside the penalty area.
The last quarter of the match saw the two teams continue to go hammer and tongs at each other but no side managed to create any clear-cut chances as both sets of players were limited to shots from distance.
In the end, there was not enough to separate the two sides as they opened their account in the tournament with a point each.