Dhaka: If there was one way to break the gloom of a tough loss, it was with a performance like the one the India U-17 team put on display in their penultimate game of the SAFF U-17 Women’s Championship campaign on Sunday.
The Young Tigresses ran riot against Bhutan to register a 9-0 win and seize control of their own fate going into the final game of the Championship.
The goals started coming very early, Menaka scoring India’s opener with a scarcely believable shot from 35 yards out. The midfielder had spotted the Bhutanese goalkeeper off her line and made her pay.
With the lead established and the nerves calmed, India started playing slick football, Sibani Devi and Pooja, in particular running at a hapless Bhutan defence with ease.
Shilji Shaji scored India’s second in the 12th minute, shooting into the bottom corner from the top of the box, after Pooja had delicately played the ball into her path.
India kept the tempo high and just before half time added a third to their tally, Sibani finishing off Pooja’s cross to score her first of the game.
Bhutan had displayed courage and grit for large periods of the first half, and at the start of the second, they seemed to have figured losing was a better result than losing badly.
For India’s freewheeling front three though, this wasn’t enough. In a period of six brutal minutes- from the 56th to the 62nd- India doubled their advantage, Thoibisana scoring her first of the game and Sibani and Shilji both doubling their personal tally.
Shilji, who had already scored three hat tricks in her first four games for India, got her fourth hat trick soon after to extend India into a 7-0 lead. And yet she wasn’t done.
Two more goals arrived in the 79th and 81st minute to wrap up a five-star performance with five goals. They are now top of the table, equal on points and goal difference as Russia, albeit having played a game more.
India next play Russia in their final game of the Championship on March 28.