Asian Games gold medallist Amit Panghal started the season on a strong note as Indian boxers packed enough power into their punches to assure themselves of five medals in the 70th Strandja Memorial Boxing in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Sunday.
Panghal assured a semifinal berth and medal after a closely contested 3-2 win over Ukraine's Nazar Kurotchyn in the 49kg category.
The Indian women pugilists too guaranteed four medals at the end of the third day at the prestigious tournament.
Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), who won the bronze at the 2018 AIBA Wold Women Boxing Championships, put up a robust display to beat Brazil's Soarez Beatriz in a unanimous 5-0 victory and assure the first medal for the women boxers.
The Brazilian had no answer to Lovina's attacking game as she secured her place in the top four.
Following suit was young boxer, Manju Rani, who served Bonati Roberta of Italy the same fate, thrashing her with a unanimous 5-0 verdict. Manju, the current National Champion in 48 kg category sealed her berth in the semis.
Former world junior champion Nikhat Zareen (51kg) lived up to the expectations by outclassing Buryam Yana of Belarus 5-0.
In the day's last bout for the women boxers, Neeraj defeated Amelia Moore of USA with a similar result to confirm the fifth medal and berth in the semi-final.
2016 World Championship silver winner, Sonia Lather, however, succumbed to a defeat, going down to Ramirez Yarisel of USA 1-4 in the 57kg category.
Earlier in the day, the men's team too enjoyed positive results.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Gaurav Solanki (52kg) and bronze winner Naman Tanwar (91kg) both advanced to the quarter-finals.
Solanki, taking to the ring within 24 hours of his first-round win, defeated Kazakhstan's Anvar Muzaparov 3-2 in a hard-fought contest on Saturday night.
The 19-year-old Tanwar, who claimed a bronze in Gold Coast last year, got the better of Poland's Michal Soczynski 5-0 in a dominating performance.
Solanki will face Uzbekistan's Fayzov Khudonyazar in the last-eight stage. Khudonyazar defeated local hope Tinko Banabakov in his pre-quarterfinal bout, which was also ended in a split verdict
Tanwar, on the other hand, will be up against Ukraine's Serhii Horskov. Horskov out-punched Serbia's Darko Stankovic in his pre-quarterfinal contest to fetch a 5-0 decision from the judges.
However, it was curtains for Ulaan Baatar Cup gold-medallist Ankush Dahiya. Dahiya lost to Macedonia's Jasin Ljama, the bout lasting just over a minute before the referee stopped the contest. Dahiya is also a former Asian youth silver-medallist.
India's best medal haul at this European event was last year when the country snared 11 in all, two of them gold.
Delhi hand Bengaluru another shocking loss
Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored twice in three minutes as Delhi Dynamos FC stunned Bengaluru FC 3-2 in a closely fought Hero Indian Super League clash, in New Delhi.
Players from both sides wore black arm bands as mark of respect to the martyrs of the recent terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama.
Ulises Davila's goal in the ninth minute gave Delhi the lead and opened the game up in midfield. Boithang Haokip scored in the 19th minute to bring Bengaluru level. Sunil Chhetri's 72nd-minute strike looked to have put Bengaluru in the driving seat before Daniel Lalhlimpuia struck twice (77', 80') to seal a win for his team.
The win meant Delhi are now unbeaten in their last five matches, winning three of them. Bengaluru, on the other hand, have lost three of their last five matches, picking up just four points after being unbeaten in the first 11 games of the season.
Bengaluru, however, are perched at the top of the table with 31 points from 16 matches.
Bengaluru started on the front foot and almost scored in the first minute. Udanta Singh combined with Miku on the right flank, dribbled into the box and squared the ball back to the Venezuelan striker who shot wide of the target.
Despite the visitors' ascendancy, Delhi Dynamos drew first blood in the ninth minute. Nandhakumar Sekar's low cross into the box was punched into the feet of Davila by an outstretched Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The Mexican forward found the back of the net with a powerful shot.
Bengaluru were back in the contest in the 19th minute. Similar to the opening goal, Francisco Dorronsoro had trouble collecting a Xisco Hernandez cross from the right flank and his punch sent the ball to Boithang whose first-time shot struck the net.
The teams were much more cautious in their approach after the break.
Delhi had chances to take the lead as the second half wore on but failed to convert them into goals. The league leaders, at the other end, pulled ahead in the 72nd minute.
The visitors made full use of Delhi's pressing and the space available behind the defence as Xisco found Chhetri's run with a perfectly-weighted lobbed through-ball. The India striker dribbled into the box and poked the ball past Dorronsoro.
Delhi's attackers sprang to life and moved forward in search of the equaliser. They were rewarded in the 77th minute when Narayan Das delivered a teasing cross into the centre of the box from the left flank.
Daniel brought the ball under control and slammed the ball straight at Gurpreet who could not prevent the strike from going into the net.
Delhi looked a rejuvenated side in the second half and consistent pressure in the attacking third helped the hosts regain their lead three minutes later.
Juanan's defensive header off a Romeo Fernandes cross fell to Daniel. The former Bengaluru striker drilled a low shot towards goal which took a deflection off Rahul Bheke and beat Gurpreet at his near post.
Daniel outmuscled Albert Serran and entered the box in the 86th minute. Gurpreet pulled off a good save to deny the striker a hat trick but the damage was already done by Delhi whose second-half performance gave them a morale-boosting win.
East Bengal drop points against Churchill Brothers, unbeaten run ends
Churchill Brothers came from behind to hold title aspirants East Bengal to a 1-1 draw and end the home team's dream run in the I-League, in Kolkata.
Willis Plaza came to haunt his former side as the East Bengal discard stunned a strong crowd of 43,768 with a perfect finish in the 68th minute at the Salt Lake Stadium.
But the two-time former champions' lead lasted just 10 minutes with Kassim Aidara flicking in a header from a stunning Lalrindika Ralte cross to bring draw level.
The draw meant East Bengal (32) could not go level with leaders Chennai City FC (34) but jumped past Real Kashmir (32) on goal difference to occupy the second place.
This was East Bengal's penultimate home game of the season and they will next face Aizawl FC on February 25, before concluding their campaign with three away games against Real Kashmir, Minerva Punjab and Gokulam Kerala.
For Churchill, who took a fine lead against the run of play, it was a massive blow to their title hopes as they remained on fourth place with 31 points. The Goans have two matches left.
Churchill will rue the clumsy defending by Jovel Martins who brought down substitute Brandon Vanlalremdika from a heavy touch.
With Lalram Chullova missing from just outside the box few minutes back, Lalrindika took the strike and delivered a world-class leftfooter that zoomed into the net taking a deflection from Aidara.
Earlier, an unchanged East Bengal who had demolished Shillong Lajong 5-0, failed to go ahead against a compact Churchill Brothers set up.
The Goans, in fact, dominated the possession and got a chance in the 14th minute but Chesterpaul Lyngdoh's shot from Plaza pass sailed over the crossbar.
As anxiety started to grip the home camp, East Bengal finally got a chance just before the break when Tony Dovale received a square pass from Ernique Esqueda and found himself in a one-on-one position with Vigneshwaran Baskaran.
But full credit goes to Chruchill goalkeeper for thwarted the Spaniard's strike from close range.
East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar too saved a chance when he thwarted Nenad Novakovic's header from a corner.
Churchill went in for an over defensive approach employing nine players in the backline in the final 30 minutes.
As it turned out, Plaza scored the opening goal against his former team with some lack of communication in East Bengal midfield.
Plaza made a perfect run after being set up cleverly by Nicholas Fernandes from the left flank as he was waiting for the space behind the back.
With Borja Gomez to beat, Plaza cleverly changed his direction to shoot past Dagar with a cool-headed finish to bring up his 18th goal, two ahead of Pedro Manzi in the race for golden boot.
The stunning equaliser lifted East Bengal as they kept pressing hard but the Goans managed to hold on.
Shiv Chhatrapati awards for Deshpande, Mandhana
Noted Mallakhamb coach Uday Deshpande and aggressive opening batswoman Smriti Mandhana were Sunday conferred the state government's Shiv Chhatrapati awards at a function at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai.
The awards were presented by Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao in presence of state sports minister Vinod Tawde, a media release issued by the minister's office said.
While the Shiv Chhatrapati life-time achievement award was presented to Deshpande, who has dedicated his life to the traditional sport, the Shiv Chhatrapati award for players among several others was presented to Mandhana, who hails from Sangli district in western Maharashtra.
Mandhana is a member of the Indian women's cricket team and will be leading the Board President's XI against the England Women's team in a warm up game on Monday.
According to the release, noted squash player Mahesh Mangaonkar and chess player Saloni Sapale, both recipients of the Shiv Chhatrapati award, have decided to donate the prize money of Rs one lakh, to the families of the slain jawans from Maharashtra, who were killed in the terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14.
Governor Rao congratulated the young players and coaches from Maharashtra and hoped the state would maintain its "leadership position" in sports and games in the future as well.
He also said that he was happy to note Maharashtra will be setting up its first full-fledged sports university in Aurangabad.
Tawde, said the approach of parents towards sports has changed off late.