Friday , April 19 2024

After late Kosovo loss, India finish runners-up in Turkish Women’s Cup!

India’s valiant efforts to win their first-ever senior women’s title outside the SAFF region got swept aside by an injury-time goal in their concluding round-robin Turkish Women’s Cup match against Kosovo at the Gold City Complex in Alanya, Turkey, on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

While the 1-0 victory, thanks to a skillful effort by Erëleta Memeti, propelled Kosovo to nine points from three matches and gave them their second title in a row, India finished runners-up with six points. It was the Blue Tigresses’ best performance in the Turkish Women’s Cup in three appearances.

India’s Manisha Kalyan was adjudged the best midfielder of the tournament for her exemplary display throughout the competition.

It was a do-or-die match for India. Nothing short of three points was enough for them to win the cup. For Kosovo, a team, who last tasted defeat in November 2022 (1-3 against Slovenia), a draw was enough, though they did even better.

Seeking better stability in front of their own back four, India made one change to the starting XI from their previous match against Hong Kong – Sangita Basfore replaced Karthika Angamuthu to slot into the number six role.

The Blue Tigresses were happy to keep their shape and contain Kosovo, though the epicentre of the battle was quite far from the Indian box. India, while sitting on a mid-press on most occasions, chose their moments to impose a high press on the Kosovo back-four, a tactic that yielded several chances and also served to confuse the opposition defence.

Soumya Guguloth had the best chance of the first half and perhaps even the game on the quarter-hour mark, when Pyari Xaxa managed to steal the ball at the edge of the Kosovo box, before playing it to Indumathi Kathiresan, who threaded a delicate through ball between the lines, to Soumya behind the defence. The India winger only had Djellza Mehmeti to beat from inside the six-yard box but managed to side-foot it straight at the Kosovo keeper.

India’s ploy to pressurise the Kosovo defence worked wonders, with Pyari, the striker, being the chief workhorse. She managed to make a crucial interception at the edge of the area in the 38th minute, an action that required a high boot from Donjeta Halilaj to bring her down. Manisha showed her class from the ensuing free-kick, curling it around the wall, with the ball destined for the far post. However, Mehmeti produced a diving save to keep it out.

Manisha had another chance when she sprinted down the left and attempted a laced shot across the face of the goal, which was saved by the keeper. Her shot from the ensuing rebound went wide, just seconds before the half-time whistle.

If the first half seemed like a tight match-up, the second half was twice as much. Kosovo looked to implement their own high press, which often left the Indian fullbacks isolated when the ball was played out wide to them.

An unmarked Soumya had another opportunity to trouble the scorers when Manisha sent in a long cross. With all the Kosovo defenders pulled to the near post by Manisha and Anju, Soumya had a gaping goal to aim at but miscued her attempted volley.

Kosovo kept growing into the game as the second half wore on. Their midfielders came more into the play, enforcing control in the Indian half, as the Blue Tigresses were reduced to frantic counterattacks. Panthoi Chanu made a few saves in the last few minutes, however, Kosovo Erëleta Memeti scored the winner in injury time to win it for her side.

INDIA WOMEN: Panthoi Chanu – Sanju, Ashalata Devi, Shilky Devi, Dalima Chhibber – Sangita Basfore, Indumathi Kathiresan, Anju Tamang (90′ Grace Dangmei) – Manisha Kalyan, Pyari Xaxa, Soumya Guguloth (65′ Jyoti Chauhan)

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