Kakamigahara, Japan: The Indian women’s hockey team defeated China in a tense shootout to lift the Asia Cup after 13 years, thereby qualifying for next year’s World Cup as the continental champions.
Skipper Rani Rampal scored the winning goal at the Kakamigahara Kawasaki Stadium, while Savita Punia made a great save in sudden death as India won 5-4 in a penalty shootout.
China had the advantage at the start as a stick check in the circle saw India concede a penalty corner in the second minute, which was padded away by goalkeeper Punia before Deep Grace cleared the ball.
Indian forwards Navneet Kaur and Vandana Kataria launched a swift attack to find space in the Chinese D, but were unable to convert. China then won a second penalty corner, but Punia made yet another save as she padded away Meiyu Liang’s flick.
India came back determined in the second quarter, keeping the pressure on the opponents. Kaur came close to scoring a field goal in the 17th minute, but her diving effort was blocked as Rampal made a quick attempt to find deflection.
Navjot Kaur finally broke the stalemate in the 25th minute after Navneet Kaur and Rampal’s give-and-take play penetrated the circle.
India dominated ball possession through the third quarter with accurate passing, rotating the ball and testing China’s patience.
China won a penalty corner through a successful video referral in the 47th minute, and Tiantian Luo kept low as she improvised from the injection to find the right corner of the goal.
China won a fourth penalty corner with less than three minutes of time left, but a brilliant save from rusher Sunita Lakra prevented another goal.
In the penalty shootout, Rampal scored twice while Monika, Lilima Minz and Navjot Kaur netted one each as India took the title for the first time since 2004.
Punia was adjudged goalkeeper of the tournament while Monika won the woman of the match award. ANI