Jakarta: Ending a two-decade wait, a resilient Indian women's hockey team stormed into the final of the 18th Asian Games after edging past World No.11 China 1-0 in the semi-final at the Gelora Bung Karno field here on Wednesday.
Inspired by Gurjit Kaur's solitary goal in the 52nd minute, India ensured themselves of at least a silver when they face lower-ranked Japan in the final on Friday.
India had the opening chance of the match as Vandana Katariya and Navneet Kaur combined inside the striking circle but could not create a goal as China defended well.
In the 8th minute, Navneet won India their first Penalty Corner which was taken by Gurjit Kaur but her shot was deflected away by the first Chinese rusher.
India looked to have the upper hand in the first quarter and had another chance in the 13th minute as Monika's pass from the right flank was converted into a shot by Navjot Kaur, but the Chinese goalkeeper Jiao Ye managed to clear the ball away as the scores remained 0-0 after the first period.
The start of the second quarter saw China produce some slick passing in the Indian striking circle which won them their first PC in the 18th minute but the resulting drag-flick was hit wide of the post.
China tried to create chances in the next few minutes but the Indian defence made sure that they eliminated the threat. The Chinese team tried to keep more possession as they grew into the match, but World No.9 India made sure that they pressed their opponents to win back possession.
The second quarter was a period of few chances for both the teams which meant that the scores remained level at 0-0 as the hooter signaled for the half-time break.
India started the third quarter by winning their second PC in the 31st minute. The resulting drag-flick was taken by Gurjit which saw her strike a fierce low shot towards the right side of goal which was saved by a Chinese defender.
India tried to strive forward to create more opportunities in the next few minutes but found it difficult to get inside the Chinese striking circle. The 39th minute saw India win their third PC of the match which was struck by Gurjit through a variation but went wide of the goalpost to keep the scores goalless.
India won themselves another PC in the 41st minute, however, Gurjit's shot was stopped by the Chinese goalkeeper. India continued to dominate the contest and Reena Khokhar came close to scoring in the last minute of the quarter as she wriggled past three Chinese defenders to enter the striking circle and get a reverse shot away, which went just wide of the goalpost.
The Indians attacked the Chinese from the start of the fourth quarter as they looked for a goal. Captain Rani Rampal came close to scoring but her shot was deflected away by a Chinese stick.
With just nine minutes remaining on the clock, India had a chance again as Rani played a ball across the Chinese goal but could not open their account.
The 52nd minute finally saw India get the breakthrough as they won three consecutive PCs. China defended the first two executions well, but it was drag-flicker Gurjit who was successful on the third attempt as she struck the ball in the top right corner of the goal to give India a crucial lead.
The Indians kept possession of the ball in the final few minutes and made sure that they did not allow the Chinese any opportunities to equalise.