In their opening clash at the SAFF Women's Championship 2022, the Indian national women's team delivered a clinical performance to beat arch-rivals Pakistan 3-0 at the Dasarath Rangasala Stadium in Nepal on Wednesday, September 7. A Maria Khan own goal, a neat finish from Dangmei Grace, and a late Soumya Guguloth strike secured the victory for the Blue Tigresses.
India, the five-time winners of the competition, started as the clear and obvious favorites. Pakistan were playing their first international game in eight years after the country was slapped with a long FIFA suspension.
India controlled the proceedings from the get-go. Pakistan, without much possession, had to focus on their defensive discipline and rely on counterattacks.
Dangmei was an absolute menace down the right flank and in the 12th minute she drilled in a cross for Renu, who failed to keep her effort on target. Three minutes later, Priyangka Devi squared the ball for midfielder Anju Tamang, who tried to drill in a shot at goal that went straight to the keeper.
Suren Chhetri's side, however, didn't take long to open the scoring. In the 20th minute, Sandhiya Ranganathan sent in a cross from the left, but it was parried away by Pakistan custodian SM Bukhari. The clearance took a touch off defender Maria before rolling into the back of the net.
India doubled their lead after three minutes as Anju made a darting run into the opposition half before setting up Dangmei inside the box. The Nasaf Qarshi forward eyed the near post and buried it without flinching.
Meanwhile, Pakistan had a rare crack at the Indian goal in the 25th minute through Nadia Khan. However, the Doncaster Rovers Belle forward's effort flew high and wide. Ashalata Devi and Co. continued to dominate possession and went into the break with a two-goal cushion.
India dominate proceedings throughout the second half before adding a third
Chhetri made just one change at half-time, with Ritu Rani replacing Michel Castanha. The match slowly started evolving into a scrappy affair as India were indecisive in the final third and Pakistan played cautiously.
In the 58th minute, Pakistan won a rare free-kick, but Maria hit the wall from the deadball situation. However, she latched on to the rebound and had a crack yet again. But Indian custodian Aditi Chauhan gathered it with ease.
India made two more substitutions, with Guguloth and Kiran Pisda replacing Renu and Priyangka, respectively. The intensity slowly fizzled out of the game, with Pakistan not even getting a whiff of an opportunity.
Five minutes away from the end of regulation time, Apurna Narzary came on for Sandhiya Ranganathan. The Indian Arrows forward almost made an instant impact as her long-range effort called the Paksitani shot-stopper into action.
It seemed like neither team would hinder the scoreline before the final whistle, but the Blue Tigresses and Guguloth had other plans. Although she didn't get the cleanest of connections, the Dinamo Zagreb forward finished off a cross from Ranjana Chanu into the far post.
India will next face Maldives on Friday, September 9, and will hope to continue their winning run in the tournament.