India U-17 women’s football team edged out Thailand 1-0 at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday thanks to a stoppage-time winner from T Kritina Devi.
With the win, India qualified for the final of the tri-nation tournament after finishing in second place behind Sweden.
Unlike the first game against Sweden where India conceded an early goal, Dennerby’s side made a bright opening against Thailand and nearly scored in the very first minute. Sumati Kumari, who was India’s biggest threat against Sweden, raced down the left-hand side to send a low cross that was fired on goal by Sunita Munda. However, the Thai goalkeeper saved it through an outstretched right leg.
The rebound was fluffed by Mariyammal but India still got a third crack at the Thai goal only for center-forward S Lynda Kom to head the loose ball straight to the goalkeeper.
India were doing well to cause Thailand problems down their right-hand side where Sumati Kumari’s pace and strength was helping Dennerby’s side create openings. In the 13th minute, she dazzled past two defenders to cut it back into space but the pass was just behind an onrushing Indian attacker.
In the 31st minute, Sumati had the best chance of the half when she pounced on a failed clearance from Thailand to drive to the heart of their box. The Indian No 10, however, delayed the pass and the shot and was closed down well by the Thai goalkeeper.
The game fizzled out as the first half drew to a close with both teams going in with their clean sheet in tact. India had the better chances in the first half despite the visitors enjoying more ball possession.
Thailand were sharper at the start of the second half and almost scored in the 50th minute when Indian defence’s rare lapse in concentration allowed Thai striker Janista Janintuya to run through on goal but Indian goalkeeper Manju Ganjhu closed down the angles well and produced a superb save to preserve parity in the game.
Five minutes later, India had a great chance at the other end to break the deadlock when Naorem Devi’s mishit shot turned into a pass for Lynda Kom who was free in space inside the box. But she was denied by the Thai goalkeeper Pawarisa Humyamyen who was quick off her line to block her shot.
The game became stretched after the hour mark and Sumati Kumari almost got lucky after her overhit cross dipped over Humyamyen and bounced out off the crossbar in the 65th minute.
Ten minutes later, Sumati inadvertently prevented a certain Indian goal when she touched home a shot from substitute Daisy Crasto that was past the goalkeeper and destined for the back of the net. Unfortunately for Sumati, she was in an offside position and the goal did not stand.
Dennerby then replaced a defender with a striker trying to chase the victory, but it only opened the game further and Thailand had a great chance to take the lead five minutes later. After a sweeping counter-attacking move, the visitors managed to have three free attackers in the box but none could quite apply the finishing touch.
Then four minutes later, Thailand came close again when Janista hit the upright from close range after pouncing on the rebound from Thawanrat’s free-kick that was spilled by Manju.
Two minutes later, Janista failed to convert once again when she was found in space down the left side. She opened her body trying to find the bottom right corner but failed to find the target and the ball rolled inches wide of India’s post.
India eventually punished Thailand for their late misses in the first minute of stoppage time as they scored through substitute Kritina Devi whose regulation effort was spilled by Humyamyen in the Thai goal and the ball rolled into the net much to her horror.
India held on for the remainder of the contest to register their first win in the tournament and qualify for the final at Thailand’s expense.
Coach Dennerby was pleased with India’s win but felt they needed to be more clinical in front of goal as they missed several chances to take the lead before they eventually scored.
India will now face Sweden in the final on Thursday.