Archers on target, women’s football team disappoints in South Asian Games

Returning from a prolonged layoff, defending champion Tarundeep Rai produced his best along with country’s Olympic hope Deepika Kumari to top their respective qualification rounds as India reigned supreme in recurve archery competitions of the 12th South Asian Games in Shillong on Friday.

India also topped in the compound section with Abhishek Verma and Purvasha Shende claiming the honours in men’s and women’s sections respectively at the Polo ground. Following the Asian Games protocol, two archers from each country made the cut into the elimination round as India’s Olympian archer Jayanta Talukdar made an exit with promising Army archer Gurucharan Besra (666 points) making the last-16 along with topper Tarundeep, who logged 676.

The next best was Bangladeshi Sojeb Shiek who had a score of 653 to finish third in the men’s recurve. Having finished top two, the Indian duo will get a bye into the quarters as they also topped the team event along with Jayanta Talukdar as the hosts will get a bye into the semifinals of the team event which has a draw of eight. In the women’s recurve event, former world number one Deepika lived up to her expectation to finish top along with Bombayla Devi Laishram with scores of 668 and 646 respectively as Laxmirani Majhi, who had won the national ranking here in January, failed to make the cut.
Laxmirani with scores of 632 joined Deepika and Bombayla in the team event as India also topped in the women’s recurve section. However, there was disappointment for reigning champions India as they had to be content with a goalless draw against lower-ranked Maldives in the women’s football competition, the only other discipline that kicked off the Shillong leg of the SAG here.
Nepal, meanwhile, shocked Bangladesh 3-0 in the women’s football to top the group. The Indian eves dominated the proceedings but could not find a goal as Maldives, who are ranked 129 in FIFA women’s football compared to India’s 57, stole a point.
It was a display of attacks after attacks by the eves but the only missing link was finding the net as none of their raids resulted in a goal. Coached by Sajid Yousuf Dar, the Indian eves played with a 4-3-3 formation but their forwards could not find their coordination going. “It’s disappointing we could not capitalise on our chances and find a goal. We did not expect this but we must give credit to their defence who stood out,” the Indian coach said.
Sajid further said it would be tough for the defending champions from now as the top two will only make the final but he hoped the return of their star forward Bala Devi against Sri Lanka on February 9 will “make a difference”.
India almost had all the possesion in the second-half with Maldives defence kept on toes all the while.
Indian forward Sasmita Mallick had some attacking moves from the left flank but she had very little assistance from central forward Kamala Devi as several of their first-half raids went in vain. After the changeover, Indian eves scored a goal but the linesman showed the flag out ruling it an off-side.
It was a moral victory for the Maldives, their Japanese coach Naoko Kawamoto said as she credited the entire side, especially defender duo of Aminath Zaahiya and Sanfa Ibrahim Didi. “It was tough playing conditon in the severe cold climate and some of our players had breathing problem but our defence stood out and warded off all their challenges,” Kawamoto said.