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Rani’s goal steers Indian women's hockey team into semi-finals

April 11, 2018 10:55 AM

Punjab News Express/Balbir Singh
GOLD COAST (AUSTRALIA):  Indian women’s hockey team qualified for the semi-finals of the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games after eking out a narrow 1-0 win over  South Africa  in their last Pool A match here at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.

 India only required a draw to progress to the Semi-final as they had accumulated a tally of six points from three matches before they faced South Africa, who needed to win the match as they could only accumulate four points from their first three games. But a strong display in defence from the Indian side saw them continue their marvellous run   as skipper Rani scored the only goal of the match in the 47th minute. The win for India made sure that they qualified for the semi-finals of the competition as they second-ranked team in Pool A with nine points from four matches as England finished top with a better goal difference.

 The first quarter started with both teams attacking each other by creating opportunities, but neither was able to make the most of their chances. It was South Africa’s Jade Mayne who had a great chance to give her team the lead in the 10th minute when she was found herself in space in front of India’s goal, but a weak shot saw Indian Goalkeeper Savita make a comfortable save.

Two minutes later, India’s Vandana Katariya made a darting run inside the striking circle towards the base-line, and slid the ball onto a South African foot to win her team a Penalty Corner. But Rani’s shot from the resulting drag-flick was parried by South African Goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande, and the rebound was struck over the cross-bar by Vandana Katariya. In the 13th minute, the South Africans were also awarded a Penalty Corner but Savita made a save on her right to deny Lisa-Marie Deetlefs.

 The second period saw a similar story as both the teams looked to find a break-through. However, it was India who had the better chances as Vandana Katariya was involved yet again in attack when she made a quick run on the left flank, and played a one-two with Namita Toppo, only to see her strike being saved by Mbande. India were constantly putting pressure on their opponents and it was Lalremsiami’s turn to shoot as she stole possession and ran towards the goal but her shot was hit over the cross-bar. South Africa tried to make opportunities but could not strike before the half-time whistle as the game remained goal-less.

 The third quarter was dominated by the Indian team as they defended well inside the first few minutes after the restart. World No. 14 South Africa were awarded three consecutive Penalty Corners in the opening two minutes but India’s defence and Goalkeeper Savita made sure that they could not score. Savita made a great reflex save in the 32nd minute from Dirkie Chamberlain’s shot to deny South Africa the lead. In the 39th minute, it was India who were awarded a Penalty Corner but Gurjit Kaur’s shot thumped into the crossbar which meant India could not score the opening goal. Another opportunity popped up a couple of minutes later but Navjot Kaur could not get her shot away in front of goal after Monika had played the ball in from the left flank.

 In the fourth quarter, it was India who started well and were rewarded for keeping their composure as Rani scored in the 47th minute to give her team an important lead. It was Navneet Kaur on the left flank who started the attack as she made a forward run and passed the ball in-field to Vandana Katariya, who in turn played the ball forward towards the centre of the striking circle where skipper Rani found enough space to turn and shoot, leaving the South African Goalkeeper clueless. The South Africans tried to make a comeback into the match and were trying to find openings into the Indian circle, but a strong defensive structure and approach saw India retain their lead, and qualify for the Semi-finals.

 Chief coach Harendra Singh praised his players for qualifying for the semi-finals of CWG 2018. He said, “It was a difficult moment for us when we lost our first match against Wales, but the girls did not lose their composure and focus. They stuck together and took responsibility to perform for their nation which proved to be the key to their success in the last three matches. It was a tough match today against a strong team but the girls made the right choices and I am extremely proud of their performance."

 Singh also spoke about the prospects of playing either New Zealand or hosts Australia in the Semi-final of the competition. "We know it can be a difficult match against either of the two sides in the Semi-final, but it becomes more of a mental challenge if we take it as a Semi-final. Our goal is to do well in each match, and approach the next one like any other match. It is the first time we have qualified for the Semi-final since 2006, therefore it is a huge chance for us to capitalize on this opportunity," said Singh.

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