Kakamigahara: The Indian Women’s Hockey Team came up with a splendid over-all performance to defeat defending champions Japan 4-2 in the Semi Final of Women’s Asia Cup 2017 here at the Kakamigahara Kawasaki Stadium on Friday.
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.
In this match, India got off to a rollicking start as they won back-to-back PCs to put pressure on the host nation. Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur fetched India 1-0 lead in the 7th 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 PC 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 PC 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 PC, 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 PC 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 PCs but Savita was impeccable in her efforts to guard the post. She ensured India stayed in the lead and eventually book a place in the Final on Sunday with a 4-2 win.