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Ashalata Devi's early strike proved to be the difference at Father Agnel Sports Complex in Navi Mumbai..

After a disappointing result in the the first leg at Chhatrapati Shahu stadium in Kolhapur, the India Eves bounced back by beating the Netherlands with an early strike from Ashalata Devi. Although the Dutch didn't play their first-choice team, it was a commendable performance by the Indians given that the former are placed 38 ranks higher in FIFA Women's ranking.

Ashalata, the defender from Manipur, scored the match-defining goal of this tie in the 15th minute and levelled the two-match series 1-1. She was awarded the Man of the Match for her incredible performance.

India Eves went into the match without their key midfielder Supriya Routray. The Dutch coach Maria van Kortenhof chose a mixed side comprising of first team and Under-19 players with a 4,000 capacity crowd eager to see the SAFF Cup Champions improve on their first leg display.

The Indians were pressing from the word go. They did not allow the visiting team any time on the ball and created quite a few attacks of which Parmeshwari Devi’s 6th minute header almost got them the lead. Their efforts finally bore fruit as Ashalata headed home D. Grace's corner much to the elation of the home crowd.

Trailing by a goal, frustration was starting to creep in for the visitors. Chelly Drost and Lucie Akkerman got themselves booked in the process. The Indians now sat deep and guarded their citadel. Soon the heat got the better of the Dutch and they called on for the drinks break.

In the dying minutes of the first half, Annebel ten Broeke – one of the goalscorers in the first friendly – came close to equalising but captain Romi Devi was there to make an excellent interception.

Changing sides, the Dutch brought the game on to the home side using their height advantage to wriggle past the Indian back four. But it was the Eves’ resolute defending that helped them stay in front.

The back-four comprising of Tuli Goon, Romi Devi, Ashalata Devi and Suprava Samal were on their toes throughout the second half marking the Dutch strikers with great efficiency. There were tactical changes in the 65th minute when attacking midfielder Swati Rawat was replaced by a holding medio Manisha Panna and Subhaprava Rout made way for stopper Lochna Munda three minutes later.

“This is historic. Who would have given us a chance before the two matches against the Dutch. But we did it. My girls did it. This is fantastic. The result will be a big boost for Women’s football in India. This is path-breaking,” said the Indian coach Anadi Barua at the Father Agnel Sports Complex at Navi Mumbai.

His Dutch counterpart, Maria van Kortenh, explained after the match, “The girls were superb. We played better actually today compared to the other day. In the second half we controlled the game for most parts. But credit goes to the Indian girls they did not allow us to score. They were defending sharply and were really impressive. I think they should play more of such matches. They can do very well. They are above their rankings.”


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