The Indian senior national women's team began its campaign in the first round of the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a 1-1 draw against Nepal on Thursday (November 8) at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.
The first half was an open affair, with India having the edge in terms of the chances created. 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 replaced by Manisha Panna.
With the Indian defence still finding its feet after the sudden jolt, 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.
Team India 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 the likes of Sanju, Anju Tamang and Bala Devi all coming close to opening the scoring for Maymol Rocky's side.
In just the 29th minute, coach Rocky made a tactical switch by replacing Anju with the experienced Kamala Devi. The move paid rich dividends just eight minutes later as Kamala leveled 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.
Bala and Grace continued to pose questions for the Nepal defence but against the run of play, the two Nepal strikers broke into the penalty box two minutes before the break. Indian keeper Aditi Chauhan did well to delay the sideways pass and as a result, by the time the shot came in, the defenders reached the goal-line to block and clear the effort.
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, Aditi proved her worth yet again with a fine save as she denied Nepal striker Sabitra from just eight yards out.
Both teams continued to fight for the winning goal but the defences on either side stood tall. 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.
In the very next minute, Bala Devi produced a thunderbolt of an effort after cutting in from the right but the opposition keeper was equal to the task and ensured that the scores stayed level.
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 open their account in the tournament with one point each.
India (Starting XI): Aditi Chauhan, Sweety Devi, Ashalata Devi, Sangita, Sanju, Bala Devi, Grace Dangmei, Indumathi Kathiresan, Anju Tamang, Pyari Xaxa, Dalima Chhibber.