India defeated Malaysia 2-0 in a friendly at the MP Selayang Stadium in Selangkor by virtue of Pyari Xaxa’s two goals in the 79th and 86th minutes.
The women in blue, playing it’s first international friendly in over four years, survived a few scares as they did well to keep a clean sheet against the South-east Asians who managed to hit the bar in the second half through a Malini Nordin free-kick.
With veteran striker Sasmita Malik absent, the onus of the attack fell on captain Bala Devi. Dangmei Grace, Dalima Chibber and Kamala Devi started in an attacking formation but the Malaysians had the lion’s share of the possession in the first half. India, though saw lesser of the ball, created the more dangerous chances in the opening 45 minutes.
The Indian team started strongly with Grace dribbling through to the box as her shot went straight to Malaysian goalkeeper Nurul Azurin Mazlan. Chibber had another shot on the opposition goal, well saved by Nurul.
Post the opening salvo, the game got bogged down in midfield with India coach Maymol Rocky substituting Sanju Yadav for Anju Taman as early as the 28th minute.
The first half ended 0-0 with Malaysia flying out of the blocks in the second half, forcing Indian goalkeeper Elangbam Panthoi into a couple of saves as she fumbled a high ball into the box, putting her defence under pressure. Taman came off for match-winner Xaxa in the 52nd minute, as coach Rocky pro-actively sought to change the flow of the game.
Malaysia applied pressure on India, even forcing the normally unflappable Bala Devi into a misplaced pass. In the 67th minute, Xaxa had a fierce shot saved by Nurul as both sides looked for the opener, heading into the last quarter.
Three minutes later as Malini hit the post from a free-kick, Panthoi was caught in no-man’s land but did well to catch the rebound as experienced defender Ashalata Devi headed it back to the keeper.
Xaxa finally broke the deadlock as the speedy striker feinted past her marker and placed it into the net in the 79th minute. The Odisha-based striker could have had a second two minutes later but missed a sitter after failing to connect with Chibber’s superb cross into the box.
In the 83rd minute, Bala leapt high to meet Chibber’s corner but it rebounded off the post. But it didn’t matter much as Pyari scored her second in the 86th minute, Kamala Devi crossing from the left which the Odisha striker gleefully headed in, to settle the match.