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SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship: Substitutes score three hat-tricks as India trounce Bhutan 12-0

Dhaka, Feb 3 (IANS) Three hat-tricks by as many substitutes helped India U-20 women’s football team trounce Bhutan 12-0 in their opening match of the SAFF U-20 Womens Championship at the Mostafa Kamal Stadium, here on Friday.

Messers Neha, Anita Kumari, and Lynda Kom, netted three goals each after coming off the bench, as the Young Tigresses completed the demolition job, one for which they have thoroughly trained in Chennai.

India looked to get on the attack from the very first minute, looking to use their pacey wingers to get behind the Bhutanese defence. However, it took their attackers a while to get a read on Bhutan’s offside trap, before they could score.

The likes of Nitu Linda, Sumati Kumari, and Apurna Narzary were often caught offside as they made their runs behind the opposition defence.

It was Kajol Dsouza, who first beat the defence, as she latched on to a ball in the opposition third, drove her way into the Bhutan box, and squared it for Apurna, who poked it past a hapless Bhutan keeper.

India head coach Maymol Rocky made an early change, bringing on Neha in place of Sumati Kumari, and India soon doubled their lead. Apurna was again in the thick of things as she beat Bhutan keeper Norbu Zangmo, and calmly put it into the back of the net.

Substitute Neha soon made her mark on the game as she zipped into the box from the left and sent in a low cross for Nitu Linda to tap it in, after the latter missed a similar open goal just minutes earlier.

Neha turned scorer two minutes into the first half added time, as she produced an amazing individual effort that meant India took a four goal lead into the tunnel at the breather.

The Young Tigresses picked up where they had left off in the second half, when Sunita Munda and Anita Kumari also came on to join the fray. It did not take the latter much time to put her own name on the scoresheet, as she tapped a cross by Neha into the net just five minutes into the second half. Another five minutes later, Anita turned provider, feeding a low cross to Neha, who duly obliged for the sixth.

With 30 minutes left on the clock, Maymol introduced Lynda Kom and Tania Kanti into the game, and the former immediately scored India’s seventh goal of the game off an Anita cross. Lynda scored her second just two minutes later, this time it was Neha with the assist.

Anita Kumari used her pace to get behind the Bhutan defence and calmly slotted it past the keeper to score her second with just a little over 20 minutes of regulation time left on the clock.

Lynda Kom completed her hat-trick with 15 minutes left, when Anita intercepted a clearance by the keeper and passed to the former, who was calm enough to poke it home.

Anita completed her own hat-trick minutes later, when she broke free on the right, entered the box and slit it between the keeper and the near post. Babina Lisham was brought on in the dying stages in place of Kajol, and she soon set Anita on her way on the right. The speedy winger darted into the box and sent it in for Neha, who completed her own hat-trick, to wrap-up the match 12-0 in her side’s favour.

“We are absolutely elated over the performance of the girls today. They were all over the place, and played very well. But now, it’s time to get ready for the next game,” said India head coach Maymol Rocky after the game.

Neha, who came on as a substitute in the 31st minute, said, “It feels great, especially because this was the first time I scored in national team colours, and it was a hat-trick. I also quite enjoyed assisting my teammates as well. However, we need to now focus on the next game.”

Anita Kumari, who came on in the second half, said, “Our team played really well today. All the girls worked very hard, and that is why we got this result today. If we keep putting in the effort, I am sure we will reach the final and win it as well.”

India will next play hosts Bangladesh at the Mostafa Kamal Stadium on Sunday, February 5.