The Indian women's team wasted innumerable chances in a completely dominating performance as Iran held them to a goal-less draw in their Asian Cup opening match in Navi Mumbai on Thursday. (More Football News)
Head coach Thomas Dennerby will be disappointed with the outcome of the match as a win against lower-ranked Iran would have put his side in a comfortable position in its bid to qualify for the quarterfinals.
But he must be happy in part as his wards dished out some fine display of possession and passing football, especially in the second half, at the DY Patil Stadium.
He will hope that his team continues in the same vein and score goals in the second match on Sunday against Chinese Taipei, who were thrashed 0-4 by China in the day's earlier match, to keep their quarterfinals prospects alive.
The Indians would have expected Iran to be defensive in their approach but it turned out to be the opposite in the initial period.
Impressive Start From Iran
Iran, ranked 70th as against India's 55th, were the better side in the opening minutes during which they got two scoring chances, including a hit on the crossbar, but the home team took control of the Group A match midway into the first half and dominated till the end.
Iran had two chances in the period they dominated with captain Behnaz Taherkhani's header off a Samaneh Chahkandi free-kick ricocheting off the crossbar after beating goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan in the 12th minute.
Though captain Ashalata Devi was rock solid at deep defence, Iran almost took the lead in 19th minute when an Indian defender's header went backward and fell before Negin Zandi, who, however, sent the ball wide under pressure.
After absorbing the initial pressure, India settled down and came on their own. Indumathi, however, could not keep her volley down in the 24th minute while Manisha Kalyan's free header six minutes later also sailed over the bar.
But the best chance for India came in the 32nd minute. Pyari Xaxa's scuffed shot fell kindly for Indumathi, but her toe-poke took the ball over the bar.
India dished out a fine display of passing football in the second half and they were all over a rattled Iranian side who had nothing to do but defend desperately.
Unlucky Team India
Dennerby's side were unlucky not to have scored any goal and win the match easily. Iranian goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei made saves after saves to deny the Indians full three points.
As India pressed for a goal, Iran defended doggedly while facing a deluge of attacks. The Indians were all over -- crosses, shots, toe-pokes, headers -- all inside Iran box but a goal still eluded the home side.
In the 51st minute, Manisha Kalyan sent a fine low cross from the left but Pyari Xaxas toe-poke went just wide. A minute later, Xaxa again could not reach the ball off a lovely pass from Sandhya Ranganathan, as an Iranian made a last-ditch defending.
At the hour mark, Indumathi's shot hit the side netting after a fine buildup.
The coming in of Dangmei Grace in place of Sandhya increased the tempo of Indian attack.
Another great chance for India came in the 76th minute but Dangmei's header in front of an open goal was somehow saved by the goalkeeper who made a remarkable recovery after being beaten.
Dangmei again missed a chance towards the end as she was a bit late to take the shot in front of goal and an Iranian defender came to the rescue with a last-ditch tackle.
India did not name Sweety Devi and Linthoingambi Devi (goalkeeper) in the match day line up from their 23-member squad. Also, Panthoi Devi was added as a goalkeeper. Two unnamed players had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
India play Chinese Taipei on Sunday.