Rani Rampal’s late strike seals India women’s Olympic berth
The solitary goal, scored by skipper Rani Rampal in the 48th minute, was crucial as it broke the deadlock and helped India clinch the qualifier 6-5 on aggregate, leaving United States, who played their hearts out on Saturday, devastated.Updated: Nov 03, 2019 00:00 IST
There was victory in defeat for India as the women clinched the 2020 Tokyo Olympics berth despite going down 1-4 against the United States in the second game of the two-leg encounter in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Saturday.
The solitary goal, scored by skipper Rani Rampal in the 48th minute, was crucial as it broke the deadlock and helped India clinch the qualifier 6-5 on aggregate, leaving United States, who played their hearts out on Saturday, devastated. The Americans were a transformed lot in the second match and it was only an opportunistic goal off a superb buildup by India with 10 minutes to go that ended their hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.
India will now play in their second successive Olympics, and third overall, having figured in the 1980 Moscow Games where women’s hockey made its debut.
It was again a game of two halves. The USA, trailing 1-5 after losing the opening encounter on Friday, played brilliantly in the first session on Saturday, dominating possession, creating chances, and most importantly, capitalising on the opportunities that came their way. At half-time, they had wiped off the four-goal deficit and looked like booking a ticket to Tokyo as the teams were tied 5-5 on aggregate.
However, Sjoerd Marijne’s team, listless in the first two quarters, showed more aggression in the second session, turning things around in the third quarter and scoring the all-important goal, with USA down to 10 players after Alyssa Manley was shown the yellow card. The suspension proved crucial as India, having established ascendancy, scored off a superb counterattack following which Rani slammed home a rebound.
“There was pressure on the girls and the only thing you can do (in such a situation) on the pitch is run, because if you are running, you are not thinking of winning or losing. So, I had to do something to get the pressure off and that something worked for us and it also put USA under pressure. They made more mistakes and that was the time we thought we could turn the match our way,” Marijne said.
USA coach Janneke Schopman blamed the yellow card for taking away the momentum from her team. “I think at the whistle, her (Manley) stick was full on the ground and she did not make a sweeping movement, so for me I don’t believe it was a yellow card. I don’t think it was even a green card. That is why I felt sorry for Manley. She had a very good match and now she knows she has let the team down in a way. I sometime feel those decisions are not necessary, they don’t make sense,” said Schopman.
Schopman’s team was clearly unlucky as two more 50-50 decisions went against them. An appeal by Manley when her stick got entangled with Gurjit’s inches outside the circle only got them a free hit. Then, India appealed against a penalty corner decision for dangerous play four minutes from time and got it overturned.
India capitalised on those lucky breaks, held their nerve in the last 10 minutes and, despite some desperate attacks, did not allow USA to equalise and force the qualifiers into a shootout.
The visitors held sway in the first half, scoring four goals. The Indians looked demoralised and the midfield and defence were in tatters as Kathleen Sharkey and her teammates wove circles around the hosts.
Amanda Magadan converted their second penalty corner while skipper Sharkey made it 2-0 eight minutes later. And when Alyssa Parker slammed the third goal in the 20th minute and Magadan scored the fourth in the 28th minute, USA were in cruise mode.