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Turkish Women's Cup: India women beat Hong Kong 2-0, a match away from title

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Alanya (Turkey), Feb 24 (IANS) Anju Tamang and Soumya Guguloth scored a goal each as the India senior women's national team defeated Hong Kong 2-0 in the Turkish Women's Cup 2024, taking a step towards winning their first-ever international title outside the South Asian circuit. The victory on Saturday at the Gold City complex in Alanya, Turkey, was India's second in the four-nation tournament.

India have previously won the SAFF Cup five times and the SAF Games gold medal on three occasions, but never could bag an international championship that has two European teams in the fray. In the first match of the tournament, India defeated Estonia 4-3.

Anju Tamang scored India's first goal in the 19th minute while Soumya Guguloth struck the second in the 79th minute to secure three points for India. The Blue Tigresses now have six points from their two games and will cross swords with Kosovo in their final round-robin tie on Tuesday, which could virtually be called the final.

Kosovo also have collected six points from two matches and thus Tuesday's clash will be a virtual shoot-out for the title. However, India are placed second in the group, behind Kosovo, who are ahead due to better goal difference.

India made a good start to the game, creating early inroads past the Hong Kong defence. Indumathi Kathiresan, Anju Tamang, and Pyari Xaxa, all had a crack each at the rival goal within the first five minutes. While Indumathi’s shot was blocked and Anju sent her effort wide, Pyari’s free header from point-blank range went straight at Hong Kong keeper Cheuk Wai Ng.

Hong Kong recovered composure after the early onslaught by India, as they looked to press high up the pitch. The Blue Tigresses did seem to be under some pressure, but some deep runs by Karthika and Indumathi created the midfield pivot that they used to play between the Hong Kong lines.

It was, however, India’s high press that broke the Hong Kong defence in the 19th minute, Manisha Kalyan snatching the ball from rival captain Ching Yee Sin before she played it to Anju, who took a step past the keeper and scored into an empty goal from a narrow-angle.

Minutes later an interception by Indumathi in the Hong Kong third caused some confusion in the opposition defence. The India midfielder’s through pass to Pyari was perhaps a yard ahead, as Cheuk Wai rushed out to gather the ball. Manisha had a great opportunity to double India’s lead just a minute before the half-time whistle, but she sent her left-footed effort crashing into the woodwork.

India came off the blocks swiftly in the second half, and put some concerted pressure on Hong Kong, so much so that they found it difficult to come out of their own half. The pressure created opportunities for the Blue Tigresses, but they were wasteful in the attacking third. Some high press by Pyari resulted in Indumathi intercepting the ball at the edge of the box, before being brought down in the 54th minute. Manisha, who tried to curl it with her left foot, sent it inches over.

A little after the hour mark, Anju had the perfect chance to double the lead, but her indecisiveness in front of the goal failed to widen the margin. Dalima Chhibber played an accurate through ball behind enemy lines, setting Anju through on goal. However, instead of shooting, the latter kept searching for the open net, as she cut past the keeper and two defenders, but never found what she was looking for. Her eventual shot was blocked by a melee of bodies.

India goalkeeper Panthoi Chanu had a largely uneventful day between the sticks. However, once she was called into action, she did more than what was required. She rushed out of her area to clear a through ball by Ching Man Cham, an action where Yee Hing Chan was eventually deemed to have been offside.

From the ensuing dead ball, Panthoi proceeded to create India’s second goal in the 79th minute. She gave a long one upfield to Pyari, who headed it into the path of an onrushing Soumya, who ran past the keeper and slipped it into the goal.

India had to see off a late surge by Hong Kong, when after a melee, goalkeeper Panthoi was caught out of position, and Sharon Fung had a crack from just inside the box. However, her effort went wide.

--IANS

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