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Indian women clinch fifth straight SAFF soccer title

 BIRATNAGAR (NEPAL), March 22: India continued its dominance at the SAFF Women’s Championship by lifting its fifth straight title with a 3-1 victory over hosts Nepal in the final here on Friday.

With this win India has extended its unbeaten run in the tournament’s history to 23 games.

India scored through Dalima Chhibber, Grace Dangmei and substitute Anju Tamang at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium.

Both the sides were seen pressing hard from the first whistle. Dangmei fashioned a couple of early chances down the right wing for India, while Nepal registered a couple of shots from distance with Manjali Kumar testing Indian custodian Aditi Chauhan in the 14th minute.

Just three minutes into the game, after some excellent build-up play down the right, Sandhiya laid off a ball for Sanju to shoot from the top of the box. The winger’s effort was a powerful one but it was saved by the opposition keeper. On the other end, Sabitra Bhandari posed a threat for India inside the penalty area but her curling effort was off target.

In the semifinal against Bangladesh, it was Chhibber who opened the scoring for India and this time around too, it was the right-back who gave India the advantage. In the 26th minute, she smashed the ball past the keeper from a free-kick from 30 yards with a powerful drive and put the defending champions into a 1-0 lead.

Ratanbala Devi could have added a second goal six minutes later but her shot from distance was saved by the Nepal goalie.

In the 34th minute though, Sabitra equalised for the hosts as she rose high above her marker and headed the ball into the back of the Indian net.

The break saw both sides locked at a goal apiece.

The second half began with India creating the majority of the opportunities, with Sanju and Ratanbala putting their respective efforts just over the bar.

India’s pressure paid off in the 63rd minute as Sanju put Grace through on goal with a delightful through ball.

The winger swiftly broke through, showed great composure and slotted the ball home to restore India’s advantage. – PTI

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