Tashkent [Uzbekistan], March 29 (ANI): In an exciting encounter that could have gone either way, India's senior women's team went down to Uzbekistan 2-3 here in an international friendly at Pakhtakor Stadium on Tuesday.
Dangmei Grace (22') and Indumathi Kathiresan (63') scored the equalisers for India while Diyorakhon Habibullayeva (7'), Lyudmila Karachik (25'P) netted for Uzbekistan.
Thomas Dennerby's team fought tooth and nail and could have deservedly come away with a 2-2 draw. But Kamila Zaripova's strike in the second minute of stoppage time crushed their hopes.
The Blue Tigresses looked at home soon after kick-off and Anju Tamang came close to making it 1-0 in the sixth minute, when she outran the Uzbek right back and beat goalkeeper Maftuna Jonimqulova, guarding the near post, with a left-footer. However, the ball did not swing enough to go in through the far post.
The hosts wrested back the initiative in the very next minute. Like most of their attacks, this, too, was led by Lyudmila Karachik. She was all over India right from the word go and on this occasion, came in from the right, getting at the end of a lob from behind. Then sent a measured cross in front of the goal for Diyora Khabibullaeva to tap in. Sweety Devi's challenge on the Uzbek No. 10 was too little too late.
However, India were not overwhelmed. Maftuna had to palm out Karthika Angamuthu's header from the goalline in the 16th minute to preserve the lead. But there was not much she could do when Dangmei Grace capped a brilliant run down the right flank with a scorching shot in the 22nd minute to make it 1-1. It was Sandhiya Ranganathan who had snatched the ball from the midfield and sent Grace on her way.
India's joy was short-lived though as captain Ashalata Devi made an unforced error in the next minute. She failed to get her hands out of the way on the edge of India's penalty box as a shot hit her. Karachik made it 2-1 from the spot with a grounder.
Sandhiya, who had a great day, came very close to restoring parity in the 39th minute with a solo run from the midfield. She even beat the final tackle of the Uzbek defender but could not place the shot away from Maftuna, who decided not to leave the goal.
The Uzbeks could have made it 3-1 early in the second half but back to back shots by Diyora in the 59th minute were first saved by India's goalkeeper Shreya Hooda and then by Ashalata's replacement Ritu Rani. Those saves proved all the more important a couple of minutes later as Indumathi Kathiresan scored the most photogenic goal of the match.
After an innocuous exchange on the edge of the Uzbek box, she noticed Maftuna was well off the line. So she sent a swerving left-footer well over her head into the goal, making it 2-2.
Sandhiya's brilliant run on a counter-attack seemed all set to seal the match for India in the 68th minute as she played a beautiful wall pass inside the Uzbek box with Grace. But midfielder Umida Zoirova came from behind incredibly to block the final pass at the goalmouth, sending it out for a corner.
It was Uzbekistan's chance to restore the lead four minutes later, but Diyora's powerful shot was kept out by a diving Shreya. India were saved five minutes later when Nafisa Nabikulova's header off Karachik's corner hit the crossbar. But Karachik's dangerous set pieces finally did the trick in the 92nd minute. Her corner from the left came to an unmarked Zaripova inside India's box off a misdirected clearance. She wasted no time in unleashing a volley that landed in the far corner of the net.
India XI: Shreya Hooda (GK); Sweety Devi, Ashalata Devi (Ritu Rani 55'), Ranjana Chanu (Manisa Panna 46'), Dalima Chibber, Hemam Shilky Devi (Apurna Narzary 84'), Anju Tamang (Sangita Basfore 84'), Indumathi Kathiresan, Karthika Angamuthu, Dangmei Grace (Karishma Shirvoikar 68') and Sandhiya Ranganathan (Renu 68'). (ANI)