India begins ACT campaign with emphatic win over Japan

Navneet Kaur’s hat-trick helps India defeat Japan 4-1.

File Photo: Navneet Kaur (right, front) scored three of India’s four goals.   -  AFP

With a 4-1 win over Japan, India got its Women’s Asian Champions Trophy campaign off to a rollicking start at the Sunrise Stadium in Donghae City on Saturday. Navneet Kaur starred with a hat-trick, scoring in the seventh, 25th and 55th minutes, while Anupa Barla chipped in with one goal in the 53rd minute.

India was dominant right from the outset, employing its well-strategised attack to break the strong Japanese defence.

An early chance came by when forward Vandana Katariya and Lilima Minz worked in tandem to create space in the striking circle. Navneet picked up an assist from Vandana to send the ball past Korean goal-keeper to give India the lead. India played with speed and kept possession of the ball. Captain Sunita Lakra ensured Japan did not find too many chances in the circle.

Sustained assault

Before long, Navneet drove into the 25-yard mark and helped Vandana drive into the circle. Vandana cleverly returned the ball from the right flank to an unmarked Navneet at the top of the circle; Navneet duly grasped the opportunity to double India’s lead.

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India sustained its momentum into the third quarter which was disrupted by rain. Three minutes into the quarter, India won back-to-back penalty corners but both Deep Grace Ekka and Gurjit Kaur failed to convert. Japan, too, won three back-to-back penalty corners but could not beat goalkeeper Savita.

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India’s third goal was off a brilliant assist by Udita to Anupa Barla; Barla beat the Korean defender to send the ball into the net with a fierce hit. India made it four when Japan missed its opportunity to score off a penalty corner and conceded off the resulting counter-attack.

‘Important match to win’

Navneet was in the thick of action yet again. She took the ball into India’s half and passed it to Udita until she could position herself to strike the ball past Korean goal-keeper with ease. Aki Yamada scored a consolation goal for Japan three minutes later.

Player of the match Navneet was elated at India’s win. After her match-winning hat-trick, she said, “It was an important match to win because a good start always gives confidence to play better in the next matches to come. This is my first Man-of-the-Match award in an international arena, and I am very happy about it.”

She added, “In the absence of our key striker Rani, there was more responsibility on us to create chances and I am happy that our team did really well. Our target is to win this tournament so that we can carry the winning spirit into the Women’s World Cup.”

India next takes on China on May 16.

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