After three defeats, the Indian women’s football team notched up a consolation win as it beat Hong Kong 2-0 in their final group match of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Sasmita Malik (68th) and Ratanbala Devi (70th) scored as India ended their campaign with this lone win and finished the five-team Group B at fourth position with three points.
India had already crashed out of the tournament after suffering heavy defeats at the hands of North Korea, South Korea and Uzbekistan.
India largely dominated the match at the Kim II Sung Stadium but they could not break down the Hong Kong defence often. But they were able to pump in two goals in the later part of the second half to end their campaign on a high.
It was India who carved open the first opportunity of the match in the fifth minute with Ratanbala Devi finding Bala Devi in the area, but the captain’s thundering drive was well saved by Hong Kong custodian Leung Wai Nga.
Hong Kong could have taken the lead seven minutes later after Yiu Hei Man threaded a perfectly timed pass to release Ng Wing Kum only for the midfielder to blast her shot over the bar.
Ratanbala and Bala Devi formed a lively partnership, combining effectively to create another decent chance from the left, before the former squandered India’s one more opportunity with 30 minutes played.
Hong Kong then created the best chance of the half when captain Chan Wing Sze headed down Kwong Min Yan’s fine cross for Cheung Wai Ki whose powerful drive forced a good save from Indian goalkeeper Panthoi Chanu.
India began the second half with more intent and with coach Sajid Yousof Dar urging his side to increase the tempo, the South Asians turned to substitute Malik Sasmita who came close to breaking the deadlock with a fine effort in the 59th minute.
India finally went ahead when they were awarded a penalty on the 68th minute following Ip Yuen Tung’s foul on Ratanbala Devi. Sasmita duly stepped up to send Leung the wrong way and netted India’s second goal of the qualifiers.
India doubled their advantage two minutes later, when Leung parried Indumathi Kathiresan’s effort straight into the path of an onrushing Ratanbala who made no mistake from close range.
India coach Sajid Dar said his wards displayed their capabilities against a good team.
“The girls showed they can play good football and when it comes to teams that are on par with us, we are indeed a better side. I would like to thank DPR Korea for hosting us. It has a great learning experience and we really enjoyed playing here,” he said.