Asian Games: Indian women's football team lose 1-2 to Chinese Taipei in Group B opener
Hangzhou, Sep 21 : Indian women's football team suffered a heart-breaking 1-2 loss to Chinese Taipei in their opening game in Group B at the 19th Asian Games, here on Thursday.
Anju Tamang's opener was cancelled out by two late Chinese Taipei goals to leave India empty-handed, yet with the belief that they weren't too far from one of the top teams on the continent.
Thomas Dennerby's team, playing its first match since March, got off the blocks quickly as Manisha Kalyan almost created a goal-scoring opportunity for the returning Bala Devi in the first minute.
The resultant corner almost yielded a goal, Dalima Chhibber's ball at the near post was barely put wide by Teng Pei-Lin under pressure from Indumathi Kathiresan. From there, though, Taipei seized control of the game, slowly suffocating India off the ball and then space.
In the sixth minute, a mistake in the Indian midfield saw Yen-Ping unmarked inside the box, played through and bearing on goal. Her shot was smothered by Shreya Hooda to keep the score level.
Taipei kept possession and moved the ball around smoothly, but India constantly looked dangerous on the counter. Indumathi and Manisha were at the centre of anything good from the Blue Tigresses, their first touch and ability to find gaps to spray passes were crucial to India's counter-attacks.
India's best chance and perhaps the closest one came in the 36th minute. Manisha Kalyan's pace had constantly been a threat, and this time, as she drove into the box, she had two targets to pick from, in Bala Devi and Tamang. Her eventual decision was to go with a shot that hit the crossbar and dropped perfectly into Tamang's path, whose shot was closed down by a desperate Taipei defence.
India were flying off the blocks upon start of the second half and got the opener, with Tamang picking up the ball on the flank and driving into the box at speed. Her low shot was spilled by the goalkeeper into Manisha's path. With the goal gaping, she shot, but it was blocked on the line by the last defender. The rebound fell perfectly to Tamang, though, who slammed it into the roof of the net to spark the celebrations.
Taipei were stunned and it took them the better part of 10 minutes to recover. In that period, India looked the likelier to score, and created the bulk of the chances. Tamang was again at the centre of the action, her cross tipped by the 'keeper into Manisha's path in the 66th. Manisha blazed high.
Three minutes later India were made to pay for their inefficiency, some brilliant interplay at the top of the box, giving Lai Li-Chin a fraction of space to take a shot. She shot brilliantly, the ball hitting the underside of the crossbar before nudging in.
With the wind in their sails, Taipei took control of the game and scored the winner in the 84th minute, Su Yu-Hsuan capitalising on a rare miscommunication in defence to run onto a long ball and score into an empty net.
For India, it was a distressing result but also a sign that they were playing on equal terms with higher-ranked opposition and a sign that there would be more to come.
Indian women will be next in action against Thailand on Sunday at the Xiaoshan Sports Centre Stadium.
The five group winners will advance to the quarterfinals. The three best runners-up from Groups A, B, D and E will take the remaining quarters spots.