The Indian women's football team sealed its place in the semifinals of the SAFF Championship with a resounding 5-0 win over Sri Lanka at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium here on Sunday. This result has extended India's unbeaten run in the competition's history to 21 games and secured the top spot in Group B.
In the semifinals, India will take on Group A runners-up Bangladesh on Wednesday while hosts.Nepal will face Sri Lanka in the other fixture. India's five goals were scored by different players on Sunday.
The four-time defending champions scored their first goal as early as in the fourth minute through winger.Grace Dangmei. The goal was created through some fine work from Sanju down the left wing as she cut inside to unleash a shot that rattled the woodwork and fell to Grace, who headed in the rebound. Three minutes later, India doubled its lead, thanks to Sanju's wing-play again. She broke down the left, past the defensive line and put in an inch-perfect cross, which was tapped in by an onrushing Sandhiya.
India got another chance in the 17th minute, but Ratanbala's effort was denied for offside. The opposition defence seemed to have regained its composure by then, with goalkeeper Wijerathna pulling off a couple of good saves and the Indians hitting the woodwork twice from distance. Led by Sanju, the Indians continued the good work and by the end of the first 45 minutes, added two more goals.
In the 36th minute, Sanju ran past her marker yet again and put in a cross that caused havoc in the Sri Lankan defence. The ball eventually fell to Indumathi, who slammed it past the keeper into the goal. The fourth goal came on the stroke of half-time, this time from 12 yards out. Sanju's cross struck the hand of a Sri Lankan defender and as the referee pointed straight to the spot and Sangita made no mistake.
India went into the break with a four-goal cushion. The second period began in the same vein and Ratanbala, whose goal was cancelled earlier, got her name in the scoresheet with a powerful effort from inside the box.
India continued to dominate possession and could have added another to its tally through Jabamani Tudu, who latched on to the ball from a free-kick and placed her effort just past the post. Dalima Chhibber and Ratanbala came close with long-range shots as well but were denied by the Sri Lankan custodian. The Indian.women continued to create chances and control the tempo, and at the end picked up three points comfortably.
(With inputs from agencies.)