Navi Mumbai, Jan 20 (IANS) The inexperience of playing in a top-level tournament exposed as India missed a bag full of chances and were held goalless by a lower-ranked Islamic Republic of Iran team in their opening match of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 at the DY Patil Stadium here on Thursday.
In the tournament’s second match, India dominated the proceedings, created more than a dozen scoring opportunities off waves and waves of attacks but could not manage to score a goal in the match and trooped out dejectedly. India, hoping to qualify for the knockout rounds for the first time since 1983 had to win this match as Iran were the only team ranked lower than them in Group A. A win would have put them in a good position to at least get into the playoffs for the third-placed teams. But that was not to be as the profligate Indians just could not find the back of the net.
Forward Manisha, midfielder Pyari Xaxa, Indumathi, Sandhiya and substitute Dangmei Grace all came close to scoring the goal but either shot erratically or were thwarted by the Iranian defence. Iran goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei pulled off three superb saves that looked like sureshot goals.
Indumathi shot into the side netting in the second half while Grace’s shot was miraculously blocked by the Iranian goalkeeper in the last moments of the second half as the hosts had to be satisfied with one point.
India enjoyed 64.1 percent possession, had 24 shots at the goal with five of them on target but could not find the back of the net,
The goalless first half produced plenty of action after the two teams got off to a cautious start. India enjoyed more possession and had more chances but India had the two best attempts, both by Negin Zhandi — a header landing on the crossbar and a deft shot going just wide of the far post.
India settled down into a rhythm early and it was forward Manisha who created the first chance in the seventh minute when she skipped past her marker in the left flank and floated a cross inside the box. Sandhiya meets with a header but commits a foul in the process.
India’s next chance came in the 10th minute when off a tussle outside the Iranian box, the loose ball fell for Anju but she shot her first-time effort well over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Iran had their best chance to score when the woodwork rescued India. Samaneh Chahkandi delivers a brilliant ball in from a free-kick and Zhandi attempts a header which tips the crossbar and is cleared away by a defender.
India came close in the 24th minute when Indumathi drove a first-time effort inches over the bar. India had a couple of more chances in the first half played at a good tempo and in which both teams had their chances of taking the lead.
India had their two good chances in the second session when Pyari XaXa and Indumathi missed from close range.
Pyari almost nudged India into the lead in the 51st minute. Manisha did the hard work as she advanced dangerously on the left wing and then put in a lovely cross for Pyari. The striker toe-pokes it just wide of the far post.
Pyari plays Indumathi forward and the midfielder gets into the six-yard box but her cutback is blocked brilliantly by Banitalebi out into the side-netting for a corner.
On the other end of the turf, Zhandi was thwarted by Dalima, who blocked a good attempt by the dangerous Iranain forward.
Iranian goalkeeper Koodaei pulled off a masterful save to deny Dangmei Grace from point black range. Grace is unmarked inside the six-yard box and heads a measured cross in from the right side. It’s expertly saved by Koodaei in the Iran goal and a golden chance goes begging for the Blue Tigresses.
And that remained the story of the match as India dominated the match but could not score.
India last played in this event in 2003.