Indian women lost 1-4 on Saturday against USA. This could have been the result on Friday and the mood would have been different. And in a sense, it was. USA dominated the proceedings and India won in the tally that mattered. For the first time in the history of Indian hockey, the women’s team has qualified for the Olympics two times in a row.
India lost the second leg against the USA 1-4 but sneaked through 6-5 on aggregate thanks to skipper Rani Rampal’s goal in the final quarter.
USA dominated the first half of Game 1 against India on Friday but they went into half-time, trailing 0-1. A four-goal blitz then knocked them down before they could even find their bearings. But a late goal gave them some hope.
Still, coming into Game 2 of their Olympic Qualifier, USA needed to win by at least four goals to nil to stand a chance.
Little did they imagine that by the end of the first half, they would have erased the deficit.
It started off with Amanda Magadan deflecting a penalty corner into the net in the fifth minute. USA captain Kathleen Sharkey followed it with another goal in the 13th minute. Alyssa Parker’s field goal in the 20th minute reduced the deficit further and Magadan got her second in the 28th minute to level the tie.
The match went into half-time with the aggregate scores level at 5-5.
After the break, India were better. They competed and pushed themselves to another level.
The third quarter saw India earn a couple of PCs and just attack the American goal a lot more. And because they attacked, USA were forced to defend a lot more. The leaking of goals stopped and India found their feet a little.
If it seemed a lot like Game 2, then that is because it was. Once again, India found the reserves to bring their best game to the fore in the second half.
It was still a very tense game and India were looking for a hero. And there was no one better equipped for the job than Rani Rampal. She had been invisible for most of the game but was in the right position after a loose ball that resulted from a goalmouth scramble trickled to her.
She created some space and smashed an unstoppable effort into the roof of the USA goal. India moved ahead 6-5 on aggregate and Rani showed once again why she is the heart and soul of this team.
USA gave it their all after this but India stood firm. The Olympic Games were in sight and they weren’t going to give away the chance twice in one game of hockey.
There were many lessons to be learnt – both for India and USA – but for now, one team will be going home and the other has earned itself a ticket to the Olympics.
USA could have won this but when the going got tough, Rani stood up for India once more as she so often has over the years.
Stats courtesy Hotstar