Biratnagar (Nepal), March 17 (IANS) The Indian women's football team sealed their place in the semifinal of the SAFF Women's Championship with a 5-0 victory over Sri Lanka at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium, here on Sunday.
The result extended India's unbeaten run in the competition's history to 21 games and secured the top spot in Group B, with all five goals coming from different scorers.
The first half began in fantastic fashion for the Indian side as they found the net in the fourth minute through winger Grace Dangmei. The goal was created through some fine work from Sanju down the left wing as she cut inside to unleash a shot that rattled the woodwork and fell to Grace, who headed in the rebound first-time.
One became two just three minutes later, thanks to Sanju's wing-play again. She broke the left past the defensive line and put in an inch-perfect cross, which was tapped in by an onrushing Sandhiya.
In the 17th minute, Ratanbala appeared to have scored the third for India from close range but it was chalked off for offside. The opposition defence seemed to have then regained its composure, with goalkeeper Wijerathna pulling off a couple of good saves and the Indians hitting the frame of the goal twice from distance.
Led by Sanju, the Indian side continued to pour forward and ended the first 45 minutes on the front foot -- scoring two quick fire goals again. In the 36th minute, Sanju ran past her marker yet again and put in a cross that caused havoc in the Sri Lankan defence. The ball eventually fell to Indumathi, who slammed it past the keeper into the goal.
The fourth game on the stroke of half-time, this time from 12 yards out. Sanju's cross struck the hand of a Sri Lankan defender as the referee pointed straight to the spot and Sangita made no mistake, putting the ball into the corner of the net and sending her team into the break with a four-goal cushion.
The second period began in the same vein and Ratanbala, having had a goal cancelled earlier, got her name in the scorers' list with a powerful effort from inside the box and extended India's lead to five.
The four-time defending champions continued to dominate possession and could have added another to their tally through Jabamani Tudu, who latched on to the ball from a free-kick and placed her effort just past the post. Dalima Chhibber and Ratanbala came close with long-range shots as well but were denied by the Sri Lankan custodian.
The Indian women saw out the game till the end, continuing to create chances and control the tempo -- eventually picking three points comfortably. In the semifinal, they will take on Group A runners-up Bangladesh on Wednesday (March 20), while hosts Nepal will face Sri Lanka in the other fixture.