India women’s hockey team made a roaring start to their FIH Hockey Olympics Qualifier with a resounding 5-0 win against USA at Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium on Friday. In the first of the two qualifiers, India women notched up goals through Lalima Minz, Sharmila Devi, Gurjit Kaur and Navneet Kaur to give India a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
With nine minutes to go, Gurjit netted a second to put India ahead by five goals before Erin Matson converted a penalty stroke to put USA on the board. With the win, India take another step closer to 2020 Olympic qualification.
India dominated possession from the first quarter but failed to break the deadlock. USA had their first opening in the seventh minute when Alyssa Parker had the chance to get the ball past the goalkeeper Savita Punia but she hit it wide of the post. The chance got the momentum going for USA, who kept coming at India’s goal but missed applying the finishing touches.
Early into the second quarter, India mounted back pressure with Sharmila coming perilously close to scoring and captain Rani Rampal earning the team’s first penalty corner. But despite repeated attempts, India women could not convert, that is until in the 28th minute, when India earned back-to-back penalty corners, and Lalima, who was earlier issued a green card, converted the second to break the deadlock.
With India leading the first-half 1-0, they found a new-found energy in the third quarter. Sharmila and Gurjit combined to scored twice for India in three minutes. In the 40th minute, Sharmila led to a crucial touch to double India’s tally which tripled two minutes later with Gurjit striking with a thunderous drag flick.
A third PC was missed in the closing stages of the third quarter but India would not have to wait for their fourth goal. Salima Tete’s brilliant run was backed impressively by Navneet Kaur, who finished well to get a fourth goal past USA’s goalkeeper Kelsey Bing. In the 50th minute, USA were awarded a PC but India took a referral, which after a long review, they lost.
In the 53rd minute, Gurjit increased USA’s misery with her second goal. Against the run of play, USA were awarded a penalty stroke which Matson converted as she thudded the ball past Savita, which proved to be USA’s only goal of the match.