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Heart-break for Blue Tigresses after losing 1-0 to Kosovo

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ALANYA, Feb 27: India’s hopes of winning their first-ever senior title outside the SAFF region were dashed by an injury-time goal by lower-ranked Kosovo in their concluding round-robin Turkish Women’s Cup match here on Tuesday.
While the 1-0 victory, thanks to a strike by Erëleta Memeti (90+2’), propelled 100-ranked Kosovo to nine points from three matches and gave them their second title in a row, India, placed 35 spots above their opponents in the FIFA chart, finished runners-up with six points.
It was the Blue Tigresses’ best performance in the tournament in three appearances.
It was a do-or-die match for India. For Kosovo, a team, who last tasted defeat in November 2022 (1-3 against Slovenia), a draw was enough, though they did even better.
Seeking better stability in front of their own back four, India made one change to the starting XI from their previous match against Hong Kong – Sangita Basfore replaced Karthika Angamuthu.
India were happy to keep their shape and contain Kosovo, though the epicentre of the battle was quite far from the Indian box.
India, while sitting on a mid-press on most occasions, chose their moments to impose a high press on the Kosovo back-four, a tactic that yielded several chances and also served to confuse the opposition defence.
Soumya Guguloth had the best chance of the first half and perhaps even the game on the quarter-hour mark, when Pyari Xaxa managed to steal the ball at the edge of the Kosovo box, before playing it to Indumathi Kathiresan, who threaded a delicate through ball between the lines, to Soumya behind the defence.
The India winger only had Mehmeti to beat from inside the six-yard box but managed to side-foot it straight at the Kosovo keeper.
India’s ploy to pressurise the Kosovo defence worked wonders, with Pyari, the striker, being the chief workhorse. She managed to make a crucial interception at the edge of the area in the 38th minute, an action that required a high boot from Donjeta Halilaj to bring her down.
Manisha showed her class from the ensuing free-kick, curling it around the wall, with the ball destined for the far post.
However, Mehmeti produced a diving save to keep it out.
Manisha had another chance when she sprinted down the left and attempted a laced shot across the face of the goal, which was saved by the keeper.
Her shot from the ensuing rebound went wide, just seconds before the half-time whistle.
If the first half seemed like a tight match-up, the second half was twice as much. Kosovo looked to implement their own high press, which often left the Indian fullbacks isolated when the ball was played out wide to them.
An unmarked Soumya had another opportunity to trouble the scorers when Manisha sent in a long cross.
With all the Kosovo defenders pulled to the near post by Manisha and Anju, Soumya had a gaping goal to aim at but miscued her attempted volley.
MANISHA GETS BEST MIDFIELDER
Though the Indian senior women’s national football team was a tad disappointed in missing the title in the Turkish Women’s Cup here, there was some great news for the players as Manisha Kalyan was adjudged the “Best Midfielder of the Tournament”.
When Manisha Kalyan walked up to receive the award of “Best Midfielder of the Tournament” at the end of India’s Turkish Women’s Cup campaign, the disappointment for being pipped to the title was writ large on her face. She quietly but gracefully accepted the award and returned to her teammates.
Head coach Langam Chaoba Devi aired similar views on the match against Kosovo that confirmed India’s second place in the four-team competition.
“Overall, my girls played well, they fought all out. But we couldn’t sustain it in the last few seconds when they scored the winner.”
“The Kosovo number seven is a very good dribbler, something we discussed in the meeting on the eve of the match. But as was the situation, she scored the only goal of the match,” said a disappointed coach.
“We had so many chances to score, but our girls were not able to convert. Yet, this runners-up title is a big thing because Kosovo are a strong side. All the credit goes to the girls because they played fantastic football throughout the tournament and had a good game today,”said Chaoba. (Agencies)

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