Women's FIH Series Finals: India beat Asian Games champions Japan after progressing to Olympic qualifiers
After having made it to the Olympic qualifiers by beating Chile in the semifinals of the FIH Series Finals, the Indians avenged their Asian Games defeat to Japan by beating the home side by a 3-1 margin at Hiroshima.
A slap shot off a PC from captain Rani Rampal in the third minute ensured an ideal start for the Indians but Mori Kanon's goal in the eleventh minute levelled things up for the hosts who defended grittily and managed a few lightning-quick counter-attacks which tested the Indian defence.
A barren second quarter witnessed a see-saw battle but Rani Rampal and co. had the better of the exchanges with 5 circle entries while the Asian Games champions failed to get past the Indian defence.
The Indian eves continued to create numerous chances but fumbled at the goal mouth before Gurjit Kaur finally managed to get take a drag-flick cleanly after being charged down a couple of times by the brave Japanese runners - one of whom had to be carried off the pitch.
The phenomenal power of Gurjit's flick was too much to handle for the Japanese custodian and the Golden Girls went into the lead a minute before the end of the third quarter. They failed to seal the deal which resulted in some anxious moments for the Indian bench as the hosts earned a couple of PCs in the final quarter which they failed to capitalize on.
A PC at the death calmed the nerves of the Indian camp as Gurjit unleashed another of her monster flicks as a result of which the Indians emerged worthy winners while the star drag-flicker was awarded the prize for the highest scorer with eleven goals in the tournament.
The Indians managed to penetrate the Japanese circle 26 times and directed 10 shots on goal while their opponents could only muster up 13 circle entries and fired just 5 shots on target.
It was a team performance that the Indian girls can be truly proud of and the camaraderie in the ranks was commendable.
Speaking to Sportskeeda after the match, Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne stressed that working on the mental aspect paid off for the girls who now have to savour the moment.
"Of course, we very happy after winning. It means that working on the mental aspect is helping the team very much."
"We also are aware that we have not yet qualified (for the Olympics) but this feeling is good -and we have to enjoy this now after experiencing big emotions during this tournament."
Young Mizo livewire Lalremsiami stayed on in Hiroshima despite her father's death which occurred on the eve of India's semifinal encounter, to help her side inch closer to Tokyo 2020.