Jakarta: The Indian women’s hockey team booked their spot in the semi-final of the ongoing 18th edition of the Asian Games after beating Thailand 5-0 in their last-eight clash here on Monday.
With this, India registered their fourth consecutive win and maintained their 100 percent record in the prestigious quadrennial tournament.
It was Indian captain Rani who inspired her team to a convincing victory as she scored a hat-trick of goals in the 37th, 46th and 56th minutes.
Midfielder Monika and striker Navjot Kaur also registered their names on the score-sheet with one goal each.
The first few minutes of the opening quarter saw Thailand maintain most of the possession but it was the Indian side who had an opening in the fifth minute when skipper Rani’s reverse shot from the right flank went just wide of the goalpost.
India won themselves their first penalty corner in the same minute, but the resulting shot from Deep Grace Ekka was saved by a Thai defender. The remaining minutes of the quarter saw both the teams battling for possession in midfield, with India creating a few opportunities.
Thailand seemed content on defending as a unit and did not give the Indians any room as the scores remained 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
India had a couple of chances in the opening minutes of the second quarter as Rani took another shot which went wide, while fellow striker Vandana Katariya was denied a shooting chance by the Thai goalkeeper Alisa Narueangram.
The Indian skipper was involved again in the 23rd minute as she made her way into the striking circle, wriggling past four Thai defenders but young striker Lalremsiami could not get her stick at the end of the pass as the scores remained 0-0.
India started the third quarter with a penalty corner in the 32nd minute but Gurjit Kaur’s shot was saved by Thai goalkeeper Alisa Narueangram on her right side.
India kept the pressure on the Thai defence in the following minutes, and Udita’s darting run on the left flank saw her win a fourth penalty corner for her team. But it was a replay of the earlier drag-flick as Narueangram denied Gurjit Kaur again.
Captain Rani stepped up in the 37th minute as she entered the striking circle from the left flank, giving the ball to Udita who in-turn played her in and the Indian skipper put the ball past the opposing goalkeeper to give India the lead.
The Indian team started the fourth quarter with an attacking intent as Lalremsiami’s shot from the left side of the Thai goal was palmed away by the goalkeeper, and it was Rani who found herself in possession on the right, and stroked the ball into the back of the net to score India’s second goal in the 46th minute.
In the 52nd minute, India won another penalty corner which was taken by Deep Grace Ekka, but she was denied the goal by Thai goalkeeper Siraya Yimkrajang. However, the rebound fell to Indian midfielder Monika, who struck a fierce low shot to give India its third goal.
In the 55th minute, Neha Goyal’s attacking run on the left flank produced a fourth goal for the Indian team as her minus pass to Navjot Kaur was struck into the goal to make it 4-0 in India’s favour.
The following minute saw captain Rani complete her hat-trick as she beat a couple of Thai defenders and struck with a beautiful finish from the centre of the striking circle to secure a 5-0 victory for her team.
India are slated to play their semi-final match on August 29.
India’s total medal tally at the prestigious tournament now stands at 37 with seven gold, ten silver, and twenty bronze.