India went down 0-3 to Sweden in the opening match of the U-17 women’s football tournament at the Mumbai Football Arena on Friday. Goals from Matilda Vinberg, Ida Weidenberg and Monica Jusu Bah made the difference but Thomas Dennerby’s side gave a good account of themselves in the second half, where they had chances to reduce the deficit.
India got off to the worst possible start when they conceded the penalty in just the third minute of the game when Monica Kisu Bah was brought down in the penalty area. Sweden’s Vinberg stepped up to convert from the spot a minute later despite Indian goalkeeper Manju Ganjhu diving the right way.
Dennerby’s girls didn’t drop their heads against European opponents and carved out their first opening in the 11th minute. Indian striker S Lynda Kom broke into space ahead of the defence. She lacked options to pick out a pass and did well to get an effort on target but the effort was straight at the Swedish goalkeeper Elin Swahn.
The home side had another chance to equalise just a minute later when Sumati Kumari failed to apply finishing touches to a loose ball around the six-yard area after Sweden had failed to make a regulation clearance.
Forward Lynda Dom impressed upfront for India again when she created space for a shot with her quick feet, but again, fired her attempt straight at the goalkeeper in the 21st minute.
Just as India were settling into the game, Sweden doubled their lead through Weidenberg who was slipped into space behind the Indian defence. The Swedish forward opened up her body to coolly slot it past Ganjhu and into the side netting four minutes later.
Sweden almost added a third goal in the 31st minute when Monica beat the offside trap to run at the Indian goal but Ganjhu tipped her shot over to keep India in the contest.
India prevented any further damage before half-time. In the second half, coach Dennerby made a couple of changes just before the hour mark bringing Jyoti Kumari and Aveka Singh on to replace Thounaojam Devi and Naorem Priyangka Devi.
India had done well to restrict Sweden to very few chances in the second half and began to grow into the game in the final twenty minutes.
Sumati Kumari had two golden chances to work the goalkeeper, first in the 70th minute when she was played through in space down the left side after some neat play in midfield, but the Indian forward delayed her cut-back allowing the Swedish defenders to get back and clear the danger.
Five minutes later after latching onto a heavy touch from the opposition defender, Sumati drove at the Swedish defence going past a defender and clear on goal but failed to find the target.
Then in the first minute of stoppage time, Sweden capitalised on an Indian error to add a third goal as Monica, who had been excellent all game, rounded the goalkeeper to fire into the empty net.
Dennerby’s first game in charge of the side ended in defeat but his team showed plenty of good signs in the way they held their 4-3-3 shape and pressed their opponents into making mistakes. Their bravery on the ball was especially commendable as Sweden didn’t make it easy for the team by pressing them high up the pitch.
India lacked composure in the final third and it is something Dennerby would like to fix when they take on Thailand in their second game in the tournament on Tuesday.