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Blue Tigresses end campaign with defeat against hosts Uzbekistan

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Tashkent (Uzbekistan): The Blue Tigresses bowed out of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 2 with a 0-3 loss to Uzbekistan in Tashkent’s Bunyodkor Stadium here.

In the four-team group, India had earlier lost to Japan and Vietnam.

Backed by a loud if not capacity crowd, Uzbekistan immediately applied pressure on India, and started dominating possession. The equation was clear: A win would put them in prime contention for the best second-place team slot. India, meanwhile, were playing for pride, and a chance to finish their campaign off on a high.

Within two minutes, Uzbekistan took the lead from a set piece. Karachik Lyudmila’s corner played at the near post glanced off Khabibullaeva Diyorakhon’s head towards the centre of the six-yard area, from where Kudratova Nilufar kneed it in to give them the lead.

It took some exceptional goalkeeping by Shreya Hooda to ensure that India didn’t fall behind by more than half. In the 14th minute, Hooda saved from Nilufar when the striker was one-on-one with her after a through ball played from her midfield. From the resultant corner, she tipped over a long-distance effort by Asadova Dilrabo.

On another occasion, she denied Dilruba from point-blank range again, the forward’s first time shot from a cutback palmed to safety. Right at the end of the half, Astam Oraon’s goalline clearance from a corner routine ensured India went down only by one.

India came out of halftime with more conviction in their attacking play, and as has been the trend, Manisha Kalyan and Anju Tamang were at the helm of most of it.

In the 49th minute, having picked up a pass at the top of the box, Manisha drove in from the left before unleashing a shot towards goal from an acute angle. She beat the keeper, but the ball bounced off the crossbar.

Sensing the danger of an Indian comeback, Uzbekistan ramped the pressure up again, and in the 51st minute, Karachik doubled the team’s tally, scoring after some interplay at the top of the box.

She added a third with a long ranger that snuck in at the near post to hand the home side a 3-0 win and a real chance at qualifying for the next round.

India: Shreya Hooda (GK) (Sowmiya Narayanasamy 77′); Astam Oraon, Ashalata Devi (C), Sweety Devi, Ritu Rani; Sangita Basfore, Shilky Devi, Dangmei Grace (Sandhiya Ranganathan 61′); Manisha Kalyan (Ranjana Chanu 73′), Bala Devi (Renu 46′), Anju Tamang (Soumya Guguloth 61′).

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