Jan 20 (Reuters) – Wang Shuang scored twice as eight-time champions China started their Women’s Asian Cup campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of Taiwan in Mumbai on Thursday, while hosts India lacked the cutting edge in front of goal in their 0-0 draw with debutants Iran.
China have not won the title since 2006 but Shui Qingxia’s side made the perfect start in the tournament’s opening game in Group A at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Wang’s goals bookended a convincing performance from her team, the former Paris St Germain midfielder putting China ahead from the penalty spot with less than three minutes on the clock.
Zhang Linyan had been bundled over inside the penalty area just 90 seconds into the game by Pan Yen-hsin and referee Abirami Naidu pointed to the spot.
Wang coolly rolled the ball into the corner, sending goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-yu the wrong way.
Within a further six minutes Shui’s side had doubled their lead when Wang Shanshan met Gao Chen’s cross from the right, her header going in off the inside of the post.
Nine minutes into the second half China claimed a third with Wang Shuang providing the pass that allowed Zhang Xin to find space behind the Chinese Taipei defence before stroking her effort home.
Zhang returned the favour 14 minutes later when her cross from the left was somehow missed by four defenders and Wang Shuang kept her head to score.
India, playing at the tournament for the first time in 19 years, made a bright start at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium with winger Manisha whipping in crosses from the left.
But Iran soon settled into the game and twice went close to scoring when Ghazaleh Banitalebi’s header from a free kick struck the crossbar and forward Negin Zandi shot wide from close range after a defensive error from the hosts.
Manisha and forward Indumathi Kathiresan sparked hope for India as they caused trouble for the Iran defence but poor finishing prevented them finding the back of the net.
Thomas Dennerby’s India side were much improved in attack in the second half but they were again left to rue their missed chances as forward Pyari Xaxa’s failed to convert a tap-in and Kathiresan could only find the side-netting with her shot.
A superb save by Iran keeper Zohreh Koudaei in the 78th minute denied substitute Grace Dangmei as the visitors held on for a draw.
China moved to the top of the standings in Group A on three points, ahead of India and Iran with a point each while Taiwan are bottom.
The Women’s Asian Cup has been increased from eight nations to 12 for the 2022 edition, which also doubles up as the continent’s qualifier for next year’s Women’s World Cup.
The top two finishers in each group plus the two best runners-up advance to the knockout rounds.
Asia has five guaranteed berths at the 2023 World Cup plus two playoff places in addition to the one granted to tournament co-hosts Australia.
The group phase continues until Jan. 27 with the final to be played in Mumbai on Feb. 6.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)