Anushka Kumari nets hat-trick in India’s commanding win over Bhutan

India’s campaign in the SAFF U16 Women’s Championship began on an easy note when they trounced Bhutan with a 7-0 win.

Update: 2024-03-01 12:30 GMT

India takes on Nepal in the final fixture of SAFF u16 Championship

India’s campaign in the SAFF U16 Women’s Championship began on an easy note when they trounced Bhutan 7-0 at the ANFA Complex, Lalitpur, Nepal, on Friday.

Thirteen-year-old Hazaribagh girl Anuksha Kumari, who earned her name by scoring 22 goals in the Sub-junior tier 1, tore the Bhutan defence open to come up with a hat-trick. Striker Pearl Fernandes (2), Shveta Rani and substitute Anwita Raghuraman were other goalscorers for the Young Tigresses.

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 in a span of 27 minutes against their hapless opponents.

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 on her team, as her valiant efforts saved her team from further embarrassment.

If the Indian head coach was looking for an opportunity to test the true capabilities of her wards for bigger battles ahead, then he had to be disappointed to some extent. If his midfielders and attackers had an easy passage, then her defence was hardly tasted.

Goalkeeper Surajmuni Kummari didn’t have to exert at all, as her rival attackers could rarely ever reach the India box.

If the flow of goals somewhat dried up in the second session, 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 over the course of the next eight days.

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

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