Women’s Asia Cup defending champions India overwhelmed Malaysia 9-0 to start their title defence on an emphatic note at the tournament in Muscat on Friday.

The Indians scored four goals apiece in the first two quarters before returning back to pump in five more in the last two quarters.

There are four World Cup spots at stake from this tournament and Savita Punia-led India will be favoured to reach the semifinals to earn their berth.

India started a bit slowly but got their grip as the match progressed. Goals were scored by Vandana Katariya (8’, 34’), Deep Grace Ekka (10’), Navneet Kaur (15’, 27’), Lalremsiami (38’), Monika (40’), Sharmila (46’, 59’).

India made an attacking start in the first quarter with fast-paced set-play. The first goal came through a smart assist by Neha Goyal to experienced forward Vandana who broke no sweat in converting the goal in the 8th minute. India’s second goal came in the 10th minute via a PC courtesy Navjot Kaur who worked effortlessly in the frontline to earn India the PC. The goal was converted through a fierce strike by Deep Grace Ekka. Even as India’s forward-line pushed for goals, the defence held strong, allowing no real threat in their circle.

Meanwhile, the third goal for India came when Lalremsiami intercepted the ball, stopping Malaysia from making inroads into India’s half, and passed it on to a speedy Sharmila who showcased her exceptional talent with the ball as she raced into the attacking circle only to make a perfect assist to Navneet. A poised Navneet did well to beat the Malaysian defender and score a fine goal. She was responsible for India’s fourth goal too and she remained the center of India’s attack in today’s game as she impressed with her timely positioning to create chances.

Following the ten-minute half-time break, India continued to pump Malaysia’s goalpost with a flurry of goals. It was Vandana, making her 250th international appearance, who struck again in the 34th minute taking India’s lead to a formidable 5-0 while her younger counterpart Lalremsiami extended the lead to 6-0 with a goal in the 38th minute. The experienced Monika, who was later awarded the player of the Match for her attacking play, scored India’s seventh goal in the 40th minute.

India continued to dominate the proceedings with better ball possession and created potential scoring opportunities in the remaining minutes of the game. Sharmila added to India’s scoreline when she struck two splendid field goals in the 46th minute and 59th minute, thus ending the match with a 9-0 score.

The defending champions are grouped in Pool A along with Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Indians will next play against Japan on Sunday before squaring off against Singapore in their final pool game on January 24.

Courtesy: Watch.Hockey

With Hockey India inputs