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Rampaging Sulanjana Raul’s hat-trick helps India U-17 beat Iran

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Buriram (Thailand), Sept 23 (PTI) Powered by a Sulanjana Raul hat-trick, India’s U-17 team wrapped up its AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over Iran here on Saturday.

India’s campaign so far has been defined by two heavy losses to teams ranked higher than the Young Tigresses.

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Against Iran though, from the first minute to the last, Raul was at the centre of the action and could have had a hat-trick by the end of the first half itself.

In the first minute, Raul was released on goal by Lalita Boypai. She rounded the keeper and faced with an empty goal, shot into the side netting.

The pattern of play continued, with Sulanjana, her striking partner Sibani Devi and midfielder Shilji Shaji’s dexterity and skill proving too much for the Iran defence.

Raul had the bulk of the chances in the first half hour, but Fatemeh Salelhi proved more than up to the task between the sticks.

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India finally got their breakthrough in the 36th minute, and ironically, it came in the simplest manner possible: Heena Khatun’s cross from the right was turned in from close range by Sulanjana.

With their duck — and the nerves broken — India looked sharper and a minute before the end of half-time, Raul doubled her and the team’s tally. Released by Shilji’s through ball, Sulanjana chipped the goalkeeper, the ball catching the underside of the bar before slotting in.

The second half went along similar lines though the Blue Tigresses were not clinical enough in front of the goal.

Sibani, Shilji and Pooja displayed brilliant skill and poise to get into the box, but their lack of finesse let them down.

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Salehi played her part too, blocking, diving, and making save after save to keep her team in the mix.

Raul completed her hat trick in the 88th minute and displayed the full range of her skills in doing so. Viksit Bara’s chipped ball found her in midfield, surrounded by three Iran players, 30 yards from the goal.

With her first touch, she turned and then shrugged the defenders off to drive into the box. From a quickly narrowing angle, she shot the ball low and hard to ensure India got their first points in Thailand.

 

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