A powerful performance from drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur led India to the final of the Women’s FIH Series Finals in Hiroshima on Saturday after they defeated Chile 4-2 in the semi-final.
Gurjit converted two of the four penalty corners India got during the match. Navneet Kaur and captain Rani Rampal were the two other goal-scorers for India.
With the win, India took a step closer to qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. They have now booked the berth for the final round qualifiers by virtue of finishing in the top two positions in Hiroshima.
The top-ranked team in the tournament will now face the winner of the second semi-final between Russia and Japan in the final on Sunday.
Carolina Garcia and Manuela Urroz were the two goal-scorers for Chile in the semi-final.
Both teams played some tight hockey in the first quarter but it was India which continued to attack the Chile goal. Unfortunately, they could not open their scoring.
India got their first chance as early as the sixth minute but failed to convert an open goal. They earned a penalty corner but the Chile goalkeeper was alert to save the drag-flick and then the rebound.
Chile also got a penalty corner in the first quarter. but failed to convert and score remained 0-0 at the end first quarter.
It was Chile who opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Garcia managed to put the ball across the line with a gentle push when an Indian defender was handling the ball on the line. India goalkeeper had missed a slip pass from the left to leave the far post open. India’s line defender got to the ball but failed to stop Garcia from tapping it in.
But Chile’s lead was only for four minutes. India earned a penalty corner and this time Gurjit made no mistake in sending the ball to the top right corner to equalise. The score remained 1-1 at half time.
Soon after the second half began, Navneet Kaur got the ball just outside the circle and moved in by beating three Chile defenders. She was on the top of the D when she took a step forward and flicked it powerfully over Chile goalkeeper to give India a 2-1 lead.
Six minutes later, Gurjit converted another penalty corner. It was similar to the first one and was good enough to beat the Chile goalkeeper.
Despite conceding two goals, Chile did not get bogged down. They attacked continuously and were rewarded in the 43rd minute. Indian defence was caught aware when a Chile player made a run on the left and five Indian defenders fell behind. She hit a cross and Indian defenders had no idea that Urroz was making a run from the centre. She found the ball in front of the goal and slotted it home to make the score line 2-3.
India survived a penalty corner in the dying moments of the third quarter and went into the break leading holding a slender lead.
The fourth quarter was off to a slow start and while India dominated the proceedings, Chile looked to attack more. But in the 54th minute, India got a penalty corner. Gurjit nearly got her hat-trick as her drag hit the post.
But India manged to get a turnover on the counter and Rani was at the top of the D when she received the pass. Rani made some space for herself on the left and launched a thunderous reverse shot which went through the legs of the goalkeeper. India made it 4-2 in the 57th minute. The scoreline remained the same at the end of the 60th minute.