Kakamigahara: The Indian women’s hockey team will lock horns with an unpredictable China in the finals of the 2017 Asia Cup here here at the Kakamigahara Kawasaki Stadium on Sunday.
Yesterday, India came up with a splendid over-all performance to defeat defending champions Japan in the semi-finals and book their place in the summit showdown.
It was goals by Gurjit Kaur (7′, 9′), Navjot Kaur (9′) and Lalremsiami (38′) that ensured India sailed into the Final on Sunday. The Indian team will face-off against an unpredictable China who they had earlier beaten 4-1 in the league stage.
India got off to a rollicking start as they won back-to-back penalty corners to put pressure on the host nation. Dragflicker Gurjit Kaur fetched India 1-0 lead in the seventh minute when she improvised the injection to send the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Akio Tanaka.
In the 9th minute Navjot Kaur doubled India’s lead when she struck a field goal via a perfect assist by forward Vandana Katariya.
Almost immediately, India won a penalty corner and Gurjit was yet again on target as she took India’s lead to a strong 3-0 in the 9th minute. India won another penalty corner before going into the first hooter but this one was well-saved by Tanaka.
While the first quarter belonged to India, the defending champions Japan made a strong comeback after the first break. They launched a strong attack only to find space in India’s circle and send one past in-form goalkeeper Savita. It was Shiho Tsujii who scored the field goal in the 17th minute to narrow the goal deficit to 1-3.
The next few minutes saw India’s defence put to test as a stubborn Japanese attack persisted for breakthroughs. Yui Ishibashi gave India the jitters when she converted a field goal to close the gap to 2-3 in the 28th minute. Though minutes before this goal, India were awarded a penalty corner, the strike went slightly wide off the post denying India their fourth goal.
India needed to play cautiously and not make impulsive decisions. This is exactly what they did after the 10-minute break at halftime that helped them device a strategy to defend the lead.
While Japanese goal was warded off with a brilliant save by Savita when they were awarded a penalty corner at the start of the third quarter, India’s young gun Lalremsiami scored a sensational field goal to register a 4-2 lead for India in the 38th minute.
The final 15 minutes of the match continued to remain tense as Japan won two penalty corners but Savita was impeccable in her efforts to guard the post. She ensured India stayed in the lead and eventually cemented a place for the final match on Sunday with a 4-2 win.
It should be noted that India had earlier defeated China 4-1 in the league stage of the tournament.