What appeared to be a formality game after the Indian women’s hockey team thrashed USA 5-1 on Friday (November 1) took a swift turn of fate as USA women gave a reals care to the hosts by pacing a 4-0 lead at the halfway mark.
However, skipper Rani Rampal took the situation in her hands and her 48th minute strike sealed a berth of the Indian women in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite losing 1-4 in the second leg of the FIH Qualifier in Bhubaneshwar on Saturday (November 2).
The late goal helped India pip USA 6-5 for the Tokyo ticket on aggregate and have now qualified for back-to-back Olympics having sealed it in Rio de Janeiro after a gap of 36 years.
The women’s team first participated in the Quadrennial extavaganza in 1980 where the men’s team last won their gold medal.
On Saturday, Indian women looked a pale shadow of themselves as USA took full advantage of their complacency during the first two quarters.
Amanda Magadan (5th, 28th minutes), skipper Kathleen Sharkey (14th) and Alyssa Parker (20th) scored for the visiting side.
Pushed to the wall after being forced to recover from a four goal deficit following the 1-5 defeat in the first-leg on Friday, the American girls meant business from the onset as they not only dominated the proceedings in the first quarter, but also pumped in two goals to stun the home team.
The Indians played catch-up hockey and found it difficult to counter USA’s persistent attacks from the onset. It was a completely different scenario from Friday’s match as the Indians were found wanting, struggling to get the control of the ball.
USA made a lively start to the contest as they earned two penalty corners minutes into the match but failed to execute the chances on both occasions.
The Americans’ positive intent soon bore fruit when they took the lead in the fifth minute through a brilliant penalty corner deflection goal by Amanda Magadan.
Determined to not give up without a fight, USA continued their onslaught and doubled their lead in the 13th minute when US skipper Sharkey pounced on a defensive error and punishing India’s failure to clear their lines by firing into the bottom right corner.
USA continued in the same vein and tripled their lead five minutes into the second quarter when Alyssa Parker fired high into the net after receiving a pass from Danielle Grega after the India defence was caught off guard yet again.
Two minutes later, India secured back-to-back penalty corners but wasted both the opportunities.
Moments after India’s Navneet Kaur was shown a yellow card, USA created a chance for Amanda Magadan, who made absolutely no mistake, smashing powerfully into the bottom left corner for her second goal of the game to wipe out the four goal deficit.
The third quarter started on a scrappy note as both the teams struggled to retain possession. After the change of ends, India looked to get their acts together to some extent.
Five minutes into the quarter, India secured a penalty corner but Gurjit Kaur’s effort went wide of the post.
After the change of ends, India showed signs of coming back into game, but USA defended in numbers and to keep the hosts at bay as the third quarter ended with the visitors leading 4-0 and the aggregate scoreline standing at 5-5.
India secured a penalty corner in the 43rd minute but Gurjit’s flick once again failed to trouble USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing.
Locked at 5-5 on aggregate scoreline, it took an inspirational strike from Rani in the 48th minute from a loose ball to reduce the margin and hand India the vital lead.
The Americans were awarded a penalty corner four minutes from full time but the decision was overturned after India went for the referral.
(With inputs from agencies)