Indian women blank Poland

Indian women blank Poland

Hosts move to top of the table; Ukraine power past Canada

India inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Poland to notch their second successive victory in the women's hockey Olympic Qualifiers at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Tuesday.

How dare you! Poland's Joanna Wittke (right) is dismayed as India’s Ritu Rani celebrates her goal in the Olympic Qualifiers in New Delhi on Tuesday. India won 3-0. AP

The win took their tally to seven points and they share the top slot with South Africa who were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy earlier in the day. The home side, though, is ahead on goal difference.

Ritu Rani (14th minute), Rani Rampal (36th) and Poonam Rani (62nd) scored for India, who are looking to play in the Olympics for the first time since 1980.

The Indian girls have clawed their way back into the contention after a rather tepid start against Ukraine and their 4-1 victory against Canada in the previous match had given the much needed boost to their confidence.

Against the 28th-ranked Poland, the Indians were crafty and sharp.

The midfield, guided by captain Asunta Lakra and well assisted by Ritu Rani, did a wonderful job by triggering off attacks and carving out moves. The midfielders  also fell back to support the defence and made it difficult for the Poland girls to enter the circle.

 The Indians were on the move from the start and constantly put the Polish citadel under pressure. Their hard work paid dividends in the 14th minute when Asunta, through a brilliant run from the centre, flicked the ball to Poonam, who squared it to Ritu.  A well placed Ritu then slammed home.

 A charged up India continued to create gaps against a defensive Polish side. In fact, the Indians had a couple of excellent goal scoring opportunities but they were wasted. India led 1-0 at half-time.

Superb strike

The hosts returned in the same vein and Rani Rampal, playing on the right flank this day, produced an absolute beauty. Dribbling in, she dodged three defenders and then the goalkeeper to put India 2-0 up.

The crowd roared in the stands and India on the field. In the dying minutes, Deepika sent a perfect cross from the left. Poonam trapped it and found the back of the net from the goal mouth.

Coach C R Kumar said the team is getting better. “It’s nice we are on top of the table now. Girls are getting into groove. We however need to improve our penalty corner conversion and make most of the field-goal opportunities. But it is a satisfying win,” he said.

Up next is South Africa and Kumar said they will do their best. “South Africa have their strengths and weaknesses. It will be a tough match. We will like to beat them and consolidate our position.”

In another match, Ukraine continued their good show, beating Canada 5-2.

Results: India: 3 (Ritu Rani 14th, Rani Rampaul 36th,  Poonam Rani 62nd) bt Poland 0; Italy:1 (Alessia Doriana Padalino 4th) drew with South Africa: 1 (Lauren Penny 40th); Ukraine: 5 (Maryna Khilko 12th, 28th, 43rd,  Tetyana Salenko 38th, BohdanaSadova 40th) bt Canada 2 (Kate Gillis 2nd,  Maddie Secco 48th).