Ranchi, Jan 16 (IANS) Defender Udita struck a brace of goals in her 100th match for the country as India thrashed Italy 5-1 in their last Pool B match in the women’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, setting up a semifinal clash with Germany on Thursday.
India, who started the tournament with a 0-1 defeat to the United States, finished second in Pool B with six points as the Americans topped the standings with an all-win record, beating the Black Sticks 2-0 for another clean sheet.
Udita scored in the 1st and 55th minutes off two superbly taken penalty corners while Deepika, off a 41st min penalty stroke, Salima Tete in the 45th minute and Navneet Kaur scored a field goal in the 53rd minute to complete the scoreline for India. Camila Machin scored a last-second consolation for Italy by converting a penalty corner.
India will thus meet Germany in the semifinal with the United States taking on Japan in the other semifinal.
India started with a 3-4-3 formation with Nisha Warsi at the base of the midfield diamond with Navneet Kaur at the edge. Udita got a start again in the middle field with Monika and Nikki Pradhan as her partners.
India only had to win or draw the match to finish second in Pool B while Italy had to win the match by a four-goal margin.
But India made a brilliant start and earned a PC in the 35th second and Udita slammed home a slap shot past the goalkeeper, taking a deflection off a defender’s stick. Udita got a goal in the second successive match as India took the early lead, just like they did against New Zealand too.
Italy won their first PC towards the end of the quarter but Savita saved it Nisha Warsi, Sonika and Salima Tete launched a couple of swift counters attacks but the Italian defence held on to thwart them as the first quarter ended with India leading Italy 1-0.
India won a penalty corner early in the second quarter as Sangita and Salima Tete entered the circle but the ball was deliberately pushed out. Udita’s superb slap shot was cleared on the goalline by Camila Machin to deny a good chance.
A swift counterattack through Deepika and Sonika from the left flank proved futile while a minute later, Salima Tete made a superb circle entry from right but there was no one to her pass.
The Italians defended strongly and through Ivanna Pessina as the fulcrum of their attack, slowed down the pace and found a foothold in the midfield. The teams went into the half-time break with India still leading 1-0.
The defence has kept both teams in the hunt though India should have been two-up but for the goalline save by Camila Machin. The Indian deep defence of Monika, Udita and Nikki kept the Italians, with a couple of former Argentina Internationals appearing for them, at bay and allowed them only one circle penetration. The Italian forwards did not show much spark in the attacking third.
A superb move by Lalremsiami resulted in her sending a fine pass to Jyoti, whose attempt to deflect it in went wide. A fine move by Neha and Udita but the latter’s attempt to manufacture a penalty corner was successful despite a video referral by the Italians. The chance went to waste as the ball was not stopped properly. Italy’s counterattack was well-defended.
With just five minutes to go in the third quarter, India bagged a penalty stroke when a defensive error gave Lalremsiami a chance to surge into the circle but she was brought down by the defender with only the goalkeeper to beat. Deepika moved up to take the stroke and scored easily to make it 2-0. A minute later, Deepika sounded the sideboard with a powerful shot off a good attack initiated by Sangita.
Italy won a penalty corner at the other end of the pitch when the ball hit Ishika’s leg but the opportunity was wasted as they failed to stop the ball properly.
At the other end, India found success again off an attack as Vaishnavi passed to Vaishnavi, who she set up Salima Tete and the youngster from Jharkhand slammed the ball home from an acute angle for a brilliant goal, making it 3-0 for India.
The Indians continued to maintain the pressure in the fourth quarter. Deepika created a good attack but her backhander was not deflected in.
But the fourth goal did not take long to come as Navneet Kaur set the move in motion and then ran across the mouth of the goal to hit the ball past the goalkeeper for a superbly manufactured goal.
Italy had an opportunity of their own when they bagged a penalty corner but Camila Marchin’s slap shot was blocked by Nisha, which was ruled as dangerous. Italy got another chance but Savita saved Federica Carta’s effort.
A superb run by Lalremsiami into the circle saw her shot hit a defender’s foot and India bagged another PC and Udita scored with another slap-shot that went off the goalkeeper’s pad, making it 5-0 for India.
Italy bagged a penalty corner just before the final hooter and Camila Machin converted it to make it 5-1.