Shibani Devi’s strike helps India beat Kyrgyz Republic

The India U17 women’s national team defeated hosts Kyrgyz Republic by a solitary goal on Thursday, April 26, 2023, in their opening match of the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Indonesia 2024. 

Shibani Devi scored the all-important goal in the 77th minute. It was a low cross from the left by Viksit Bara that slipped under the hands of Kyrgyz goalkeeper Violetta Dudochkina before Sibani Devi raced at the far post and slammed it in.

With Myanmar and India both winning 1-0 each against the Kyrgyz Republic, the next match between India and Myanmar on April 28 will determine the group winners. While the winners of the tie will automatically make the grade, and if the two sides play out a draw, a penalty shoot-out will determine who tops the group and qualifies for the next round.

The first half began with both teams fighting it out in the middle to take control of the situation. India had their first chance when Pooja’s cross from the right landed up with Shivani Toppo, who failed to make the most of it. A few minutes later, a similar opportunity was missed by Pooja, whose shot was easily collected by the rival goalkeeper. 

India had another chance to open the scoresheet before half time when Shivani’s corner was parried away by the keeper, who punched the ball before Pooja could avail herself of the opportunity.  

Changing over, India started pressing hard and in the 65th minute, India had their best chance so far. Vikshit Bara unleashed a curler but couldn’t find the target. A few minutes later, Shibani pounced on a loose ball and her shot went straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. 

A goal down, the Kyrgyz Republic began to mount some pressure on the visitors and India continued to move the ball in the opponent’s final third. 

With 10 minutes to go, coach Priya PV made some changes, as Sulanjana came in place of Shivani Toppo and Cindy replaced Soniba. The move paid dividends as India were able to defend the lead successfully for the rest of the period. 

After the match, Priya said: “It was a tough game, but I am very happy with the way the girls played today. That we clinched three points is a great thing. We had more chances to score, but somehow, we could not avail of those opportunities.”

The Indian coach is aware of the fact that the match against Myanmar, to be played on April 28 (kick off at 7.30 pm, IST), is the virtual final to decide the group. Asked, she said: “Well, Myanmar are a good team and we have all respect for them. But we will certainly go for three points in that match.” 

Starting XI: Khambi Chanu (GK), Thoi Thoi, Thoibisana Chanu, Heena Khatun, Vikshit Bara, Lalitha Boypai, Shibani Devi, Menaka Devi, Shivani Toppo (Sulanjana 81’), Pooja, Sonibia Devi (Cindy 86’).

FT: India (Shibani Devi 77′) 1 – 0 Kyrgyz Republic

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