New Delhi: Indian women hit the straps in their second game of the Olympic qualifiers for hockey by beating Canada with a comfortable margin of 4-1 here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday.
The partisan crowd enjoyed an attacking display by the Indian team that scored three goals in the first half to deflate their opponents. The hosts scored another goal in the second half to secure three points. Canada, however, pulled one back two minutes before the final whistle to make it 4-1.
India – who drew their first game against Ukraine 1-1 on Saturday – came out all guns blazing to catch their opponents napping in the first half, putting behind the missed opportunity by Anuradha Devi in the fifth minute and the first penalty corner (PC) in the seventh, which Joydeep Kaur missed with her direct attempt.
India are now level with Italy in second place with four points from two games in the Olympic hockey qualifiers.
The game, however, began on a pretty physical note as the Indian girls were tackled heavily by a much fitter Canadian outfit. But it was the skill that mattered in the end as Soundarya Yendala’s conversion on the second PC put India ahead in the 16th minute. Waiting on the left of the Canadian goal, Soundarya neatly deflected a variation into the net.
Three minutes later, Rani Rampal’s solo effort made it 2-0. Rani controlled the ball nicely, running from the left of Canada’s baseline, and finished with a crisp hit to sound the board. Deepika then came close to increasing the lead in the 21st but pushed the hit wide of the post.
In the 26th minute, a long ball found Vandana Katariya in an advantageous position but her reverse-hit attempt was blocked by the Canadian goalkeeper Azelia Liu. India got back-to-back PCs at the end of the failed attempt but couldn’t convert either, thanks to an alert Canadian defence.
India finally scored off a PC, their sixth, in the 29th minute when Sushila Chanu gave India a 3-0 cushion before the break.
The second half began on a slightly sluggish note, with the Canadian women playing the possession game; however, it didn’t produce any results for the visitors. Rather, it was India who added to their tally in the 49th minute. A long ball from Joydeep into the Canadian circle found Anuradha Devi in perfect position, and the Indian centre-forward didn’t make any mistake to beat Liu.
Anuradha got another chance on a counter-attack in the 64th minute but this time she failed to get her stick to cross from the right. Canada then scored a consolation goal through No. 13 Hannah Haughn in the 69th minute.
India are now level with Italy in second position on the leaderboard with four points; however, Italy (6) have scored more goals than India (5). South Africa lead the table with six points from two games.
In the other two women games on Sunday, Italy beat Poland 4-1 while South Africa beat Ukraine 2-0. The hosts will next take on Poland on Tuesday after a rest day in the tournament on Monday.