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Spirited India beat New Zealand 3-1 to keep Paris Olympics hopes alive

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Ranchi, Jan 14: India on Sunday rose from the ashes to tame New Zealand 3-1 with a spirited performance in their second pool match of the FIH Women’s Olympic Qualifier to keep alive their hopes of securing a ticket to Paris Games.
The Indians, who dropped a rung to seventh in the world rankings released on Saturday, did not have the best of starts in the tournament, losing to lower-ranked United States 0-1 in their opening Pool B match.
In contrast, New Zealand registered an easy 3-0 win over Italy on Saturday.
But it was complete turnover from the Indians on Sunday.
Leaving behind the USA disappointment, the Indians produced all-round hockey on Sunday and used every corner of the turf to build their attacks with short and crisp passes.
This was what India’s chief coach Janneke Schopman pointed after USA match and the girls seemed to have attentively listened to the Dutch, which was evident from the team’s much-improved performance on Sunday.
Salima Tete had a brilliant game and was involved in most of the Indian attacks with her quick runs and dribbling abilities.
India took the lead with their first attack within 41 seconds of the match through a field effort.
Sangita scored from close range after she was set up by Salima Tete, who broke through New Zealand defence from the right flank with a brilliant run.
Stunned by the goal, the Black Sticks responded instantly and secured a penalty corner two minutes later but wasted the chance.
India earned their first PC in the 8th minute but Deepika’s hit was blocked by a New Zealand defender. The ball fell in front of Baljeet Kaur’s stick standing near the goal but she failed to get past Black Sticks goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon.
The Indians’ ploy to fall back a bit after the early lead backfired as New Zealand secured another penalty corner soon and Hull this time converted the chance with a grounded shot to draw level.
But New Zealand’s leveller seemed to have woken up the home team who pressed hard and secured back-to-back penalty corners, the second of which was perfectly slammed into the net by Neha in the 12th minute.
The Indians continued their attacking intent and earned their fourth penalty corner soon but failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
But a minute from the first quarter, India tripled their lead through Neha. It was Jyoti who set up the goal, cutting inside the circle from the right side to pass it on to Neha, who did the rest.
The Indians kept up the tempo and earned their fifth penalty corner seconds into the second quarter but Navneet Kaur’s attempt went wide.
Udita was then guilty of conceding an unnecessary penalty corner, New Zealand’s third, soon but India defended stoutly to keep their lead intact at half-time.
Barring a few blips, the Indian defence too was upto the mark on Sunday as it thwarted relentless pressure from the Black Sticks after the change of ends.
New Zealand secured their fourth penalty corner in the 40th minute but failed to break the resolute Indian defence.
Lalremsiami soon secured India’s sixth penalty corner with a fine run from the right corner but Udita’s shot couldn’t breach O’Hanlon.
USA are atop Pool B with two wins from as many games with India climbing to the second spot.
India will play Italy in their final pool match on Tuesday, while New Zealand will take on USA. (PTI)

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