Jakarta: Riding on Gurjit Kaur’s stunning penalty corner conversion in the 53rd minute, India eked out 1-0 win over a spirited China to set up a title clash with Japan in the Women Hockey competition at the 18th Asian Games here on Wednesday.
India will figure in the final after a gap of 20 years—the last being in 1998 Bangkok when they lost to Korea in the summit clash.
Earlier, Japan had upset the defending champion Korea 2-0 in the first semi-final.
India had major share of the ball, but it will fair to say that the first three quarter were listless and the winners came into life in last quarter to score that all-important goal. Indians earned as many as seven penalty corners, but could convert only one, which turned out to be the winner.
The Chinese had planned well to stop the Indian juggernaut. Though they kept the Indians on the leash but seven minutes before the whistle they leaked a goal and that undid all their plans and preparations.
Indians should have scored in the first quarter itself when Navneet made a good move from the left and sent a measured cross, but Rani failed to deflect the ball home.
The Chinese made a counter but, could not breach the Indian defence.
In the eighth minute Indians forced a penalty corner, which went a begging and then another chance came their way, but again the forwards were found wanting.
Neelima Minz, Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami and Neha Goyal from the right flank kept the pressure on, but goal eluded them.
The second quarter saw Chinese making some good moves, but Navjot, Gurjit and Deep Grace Ekka were solid in the defence frustrating all the moves.
The Chinese earned a penalty corner in the 16th minute, but Ou Zixia’s powerful push was wide off the target.
The third quarter opened with India going all out on the attack. They forced three penalty corners in this session, but Gurjit failed to convert them.
The Indians did seek a referral following a penalty corner, asking for a stroke, but the referral was rejected.
The winners also created a few chances, but the strikers were not able to translate them into goals.
The match came alive in the last quarter when Indians virtually cordoned off the rival defence. The Chinese tried to break this seize and made a few counter moves, but failed to get past the Indian defenders.
It was only in the 53rd minute that Indians earned their seventh penalty corner and Gurjit Ksaur made no mistake in flicking the ball home (1-0). The Chinese protested and went for a referral which was rejected.
The Indians defended their lead for the remaining seven minutes to seal the match and a place in the final.
“We were in full control of the game,” insisted coach Sjoerd Marijne. “We played attacking game and we did not lose the control of the game.”
The coach, however, admitted that “we did miss a couple of chances” but added “this is a part of the game. The most important thing was that we dominated the game and dictated the proceedings.”
Skipper Rani Rampal opined “We were not able to create a momentum and we gave away too many turn overs that enabled the rivals to play better in the first two quarters. “In the third and last quarters we played wide and as a result got more chances and scored the winner,” she added.
The semi-final saw World No 14 Japan turn in a huge upset to beat South Korea in a match that was played at a furious pace. Both teams went at each other with determination as for the three-quarters both teams were evenly matched although Japan had better chances to get the goals.
It was in the fourth quarter that the deciding goals were scored.
In the 58th minute, the Koreans used a kicking back and took out their goalkeeper Hwang Hyeona. The Japanese used the opportunity to slot home the second goal in the 59th minute through Minami Shimizu and seal their place in the final.
Former National Sports Editor of UNI writes for Sakal Times