Skipper Rani Rampal scored a hat-trick as India outplayed Thailand 5-0 to storm into the semi-finals undefeated in the women’s hockey competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta on Monday.
After two goal-less quarters, the Indians got into the groove and scored five goals after the change of ends through Rani (37’, 46’ and 56’), Monika (52’) and Navjot Kaur (55’) to register their fourth consecutive win.
With an unbeaten record under its belt, the Indian women’s team finished on top of Pool B with 12 points from four wins ahead of defending champions South Korea, who they had defeated 4-1 in their previous match.
The first few minutes of the opening quarter saw Thailand maintain most of the possession but it was India who had an opening in the fifth minute when captain Rani’s reverse shot from the right flank went just wide of the goal post.
India won their first penalty corner in the same minute. But Deep Grace Ekka’s shot was blocked by a Thai defender.
The remaining minutes of the quarter saw both teams battle for possession in the midfield with world No 9 India creating a few opportunities.
India got a couple of chances in the opening minutes of the second quarter as Rani took another shot which went wide, while Vandana Katariya was denied a chance by Thai goalkeeper Alisa Narueangram, who was brilliant under the bar.
In the 23rd minute Rani made her way into the striking circle, wriggling past four Thai defenders and fired a ball across the goal, but young striker Lalremsiami could not get her stick at the end of the pass as the scores remained 0-0.
In the 25th minute, India won their second penalty corner and it was Rani who took the shot but was once again denied by the Thai custodian.
Five goals in two quarters
The next two quarters, the Indians increased the intensity of their attacks.
Two minutes into the third quarter, India secured their third penalty corner but Gurjit Kaur’s drag flick was saved by Thai goalkeeper Alisa.
India kept up the pressure on the Thai defence in the following minutes and got their fourth penalty corner but once again Alisa came in between Gurjit and a goal.
India’s consistent pressure bore fruit in the 37th minute when Rani scored from a rebound after Udita’s initial try was saved by Alisa.
The Indians, thereafter, were relentlessly attacking. In the 46th minute, Rani once again found herself at the right place at the right time to double India’s lead.
From there on, India dominated and they scored on three more occasions in the last 10 minutes of the game.
First Monika scored from a rebound in the 52nd minute after Deep’s try from a penalty corner was denied by the Thai goalkeeper and then Navjot and Rani scored two field goals to seal the match for India.