India pip Poland to emerge champions

India pip Poland to emerge champions

 India were pushed to the wall by an irrepressible Poland before the hosts asserted themselves to notch a 3-1 victory and clinch the World Hockey League Round 2 at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on a chilly Sunday night.

For the first time, India, the highest ranked team here at 13th, had to concede a goal in the tournament. In a fast-paced contest, Poland gave India a robust fight in all department to make it an enthralling fare for a small group of boisterous Polish and India fans. A jubilant Hockey India announced Rs one lakh for all the Indian players and Rs 50,000 for support staff. Vandana Katariya (15th minute),  Rani (44th) and Ritu Rani (59th) scored for India while Oriana Walasek (17th) scored for Poland. 

India found an opening when Deepika sent a long, diagonal pass from the midfield which was well trapped by Vandana, who put India ahead with a firm reverse strike from the top of circle. It was her 11th goal of the tournament. Poland, however, equalised at the start of the second quarter through their first penalty corner. It was through a brilliantly executed variation with Oriana giving the finishing touches.

India, who had kept a clean slate in the tournament, shot back with rapid raids but couldn’t convert. To make matters worse, their key striker Vandana had to be stretchered out of the field, following a collision with Poland goalkeeper Martha Kucharska. India had several good chances to add to their tally but had only themselves to blame for not making them count. Despite creating some excellent openings, the finishing left a lot to be desired.

After 1-1 stalemate at half-time, Poland only stepped up the ante even as India missed a couple of golden chances to nose ahead. Two fine passes from the right flank off captain Ritu, playing her 200th international match, were shockingly missed.  Poland only added to the Indian misery by earning two penalty corners in quick intervals. To India’s great relief, both the times they missed the mark.

India then began to assert themselves and were soon rewarded when Rani with an angled strike from near the baseline found the back of the net. The stadium reverberated with the chants of “India” and national flags were unfurled with abandon. Ritu then put the match beyond Poland by striking in closing minutes.

Final: India: 3 (Vandana Katariya 15th minute, Rani 44th, Ritu Rani 59th) bt Poland:1(Oriana Walasek 17th).

Classification matches: For 3rd-4th places: Malaysia: 3 (Norazlin Sumantri 11th minute, Fazilla Sylvester Silin 29th, 49th) bt Thailand: 0.

For 5th-6th places: Russia: 9 (Ksenia Shamina 13th minute, 41st, 43rd, 56th, Daria Vasileva 17th, 55th, Marina Fedorova 21st, Kristina Shumilina 24th, 55th).

For 7th-8th place: Ghana: 2 (Linda Sasu 9th minute, Elizabeth Opoku 57th) bt Singapore: 1 (Ivy Chan 6th).

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