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India off to good start in AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers

The India U-20 women’s team opened its AFC U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 1 campaign with a commanding 7-0 victory over Singapore here on Tuesday.

Maymol Rocky’s girls started all guns blazing and raced to a six-goal lead within half an hour. Apurna Narzary and Anita Kumari scored a brace each, while Sumati Kumari and Astam Oraon struck one goal each in the first half itself. Kajol Dsouza completed the rout with a seventh goal late in the second half.

New captain Apurna Narzary handed India the lead in the seventh minute when she finished off a squared pass from Anita Kumari into the open net. Anita picked up her second assist only three minutes later, sending in an inch-perfect cross from the right for Sumati to coolly head it in from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was 3-0 in the blink of an eye. After shots from Anita and Nitu Linda were blocked, the loose ball fell for Apurna, who took a touch before placing it in. Anita then got on the scoresheet herself, tapping in a low cross from Sumati from the left to make it 4-0 for India.

Sumati continued to wreak havoc down the left wing, breaking free from her marker once again before delivering another low cross. Astam Oraon, who had made the run forward from left-back, guided it in.

India were in no mood to lift their foot off the gas and scored their sixth goal in the 31st minute. Apurna made a blistering run into the box and unselfishly cut the ball back for Anita. The winger dispatched a grounded effort through a forest of red shirts for her second goal of the day.

Head coach Maymol Rocky rolled in a couple of attacking changes at the break, with Lynda Kom Serto coming on in place of Nitu Linda and Neha replacing Sumati Kumari.

Singapore were better organised defensively after the restart, not allowing India much space through the middle. The Young Tigresses, though, continued to dominate possession and utilise the wings. Neha flashed a cross across the face of the goal, but Anita was just inches short of getting on the end of it.

Neha was on set-piece duty as well. Her left-footed corner fell perfectly for Babina at the far post, but she couldn’t find the right connection with the ball. India also had a few chances from long range as shots from Kajol Dsouza and Astam went wide.

Substitutes Neha and Lynda showed great dribbling skills but were denied by some solid Singaporean defending. Neha beat two defenders on the left before her shot was blocked by a red shirt. Lynda did the same on the right but her right-footed effort was saved by goalkeeper Nur Izairida Shakira.

The Singapore custodian was called into action again 10 minutes from time, saving a powerful effort from Mousumi Murmu, who was making her international debut for India.

India finally hit seven in the final minute of regulation time. Neha whipped in a solid cross from the left to pick out midfielder Kajol, who scored with a thumping header to round up a massive win for the Young Tigresses.

India next take on Indonesia on Thursday, before squaring off against hosts Vietnam on Saturday. The group winner will make it to Round 2 of the qualifiers to be held in June.

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