SAFF U16 Women’s C'ship: Anushka Kumari nets hat-trick as India thrash Bhutan 7-0

March 1, 2024
India began their campaign in the SAFF U16 Women’s Championship on an easy note with a 7-0 thrashing of Bhutan at the ANFA Complex,

Kathmandu, March 1 (IANS) India began their campaign in the SAFF U16 Women’s Championship on an easy note with a 7-0 thrashing of Bhutan at the ANFA Complex, Lalitpur, Nepal, on Friday. The winners led 6-0 at halftime.

Anuksha Kumari, the 13-year-old from Hazaribagh who earned a name for herself by scoring 22 goals in the National Sub-junior tier 1, tore the Bhutan defence open to complete a well-deserved hat-trick. Striker Pearl Fernandes (2), Shveta Rani and substitute Anwita Raghuraman were other goal scorers for the Young Tigresses.

The four-team tournament also features hosts Nepal and Bangladesh. The two top teams will play the final on March 10.

Bhutan had always been the favourite whipping side for India in the SAFF region and Friday was no exception. It didn’t take the goodly crowd around much time to realise the hopelessly one-sided nature of the contest as Bibi Thomas’s girls pumped in five goals within 27 minutes in the first half to leave hapless opponents reeling. India were on the rampage right from the start, with their midfielders and attackers moving almost unchallenged in the Bhutan area. Skipper and winger Shveta Rani decided to open the Indian account herself and found the mark with a right-footer off a combined move.

The floodgate opened thereafter. Between the 13th and 27th minutes, India netted four more, with the fourth goal by Pearl Fernandes certainly the best of the day. The Goa girl unleashed a long ranger that curled into the corner of the net, leaving Bhutan goalkeeper Kelzang Wangmo baffled.

The Bhutan goalkeeper, despite conceding so many goals, was perhaps the best player of her team, as her valiant efforts saved her team from further embarrassment.

Though the Indian midfielders and forwards had an easy time, the defence was hardly tested — goalkeeper Surajmuni Kumari didn’t have to exert at all, as her rival attackers could rarely ever reach the India box. This does not augur well for tougher matches ahead in the event.

The flow of goals somewhat dried up in the second session and it could partly be because of a lack of experience and the complacency factor.

Overall, it was a good show by the Young Tigresses, the majority of whom had never had any international exposure. Yet, they played their passes, both long and short ones, confidently and displayed an understanding that would help them in the title hunt for the next eight days.

–IANS

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