Indian women’s hockey team in final of Asian Champions Trophy

Defending champion India edges past Malaysia 3-2 for its third in a row, after defeating Japan (4-1) and China (3-1) in its first two pool matches.

India women defeated Malaysia 3-2 to storm into Asian Champions Trophy.   -  PTI

The Indian women’s hockey team on Thursday eased into the final of the Asian Champions Trophy after edging past Malaysia 3-2, qualifying for the summit clash with a match in hand.

Defending champion India’s win was its third in a row, after defeating Japan (4-1) and China (3-1) in its first two pool matches. India will take on hosts South Korea in its final poll match on Saturday before Sunday’s final.

Gurjit Kaur (17’), Vandana Kataria (33’) and Lalremsiami (40’) sounded the board for India, while Nuraini Rashid (36’) and Hanis Onn (48’) scored for Malaysia.

“We could have made better use of our chances to score today. Though we are happy with the win, we are not very happy about how we played. We will go back to the team hotel and discuss about the mistakes we made and how to improve ahead of the next match against Korea,” skipper Sunita Lakra said after the match.

The first quarter saw both teams trade penalty corners. Good defending saw Malaysia steer clear of an early goal by drag-flicker Gurjit. Malaysia’s attempt to score off a penalty corner, too, was thwarted by the Indian defenders.

India, who had beaten Malaysia 6-0 in a warm-up match ahead of the tournament, made its first breakthrough when penalty corner specialist Gurjit improvised on a Lilima Minz injection to strike the ball past the Malaysian goalkeeper. She kept her flick low to find the bottom-right corner of the goal for India’s first goal in the 17th minute.

India was not at its attacking best as Malaysia denied it chances in the circle and kept the pressure on, while its goalkeeper came up with impressive saves to keep India from scoring from penalty corners.

India came back fresh after the 10-minute half-time break to score off a counter attack when a quick-thinking Vandana dispossessed a Malaysian attacker inside India’s striking circle to score in the 33rd minute.

Soon after, India conceded a penalty stroke when defender Deep Grace caused an infringement while attempting to stop a Malaysian attacker from taking a shot on goal. Nuraini broke no sweat in converting the penalty stroke.

The following minutes saw India win as many as three penalty corners, but could not make much of it. Meanwhile, a brilliant long pass by skipper Sunita to the striking circle was deflected into the goal by young forward Lalremsiami from the top of the circle, taking the score to 3-1 in India’s favour in the 40th minute.

The final quarter saw Malaysia make amends as they vied for late goals. Though Hanis did well to score her team’s second goal, they could not get an equaliser.