Hockey: Indian women in Olympic qualifying final

New Delhi: Indian eves today played out of their skin to eke out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Italy in their last round-robin match to set up a summit clash with South Africa in their bid to qualify for the London Olympics.

The final will be held tomorrow. India were made to toil hard by the Italian defence but their never-say-die attitude finally earned them a goal in the 55th minute when Ritu Rani scored off a rebound after the ball had ballooned up following a penalty corner.

Earlier in the day, South Africa sealed their place in the finals after beating Canada 4-1.

Needing nothing less than a win, India tried to play an attacking game but their efforts didn`t yield any favourable result as Italy, needing just a draw, employed defensive tactics throughout the match.

However, India had themselves to blame for making things difficult as they failed to convert as many as five penalty corners before Jasjeet Kaur Handa and Ritu Rani combined to bring up the coveted goal.

India earned their first penalty corner in the ninth minute but subsequent hits by Jasjeet and later by Kirandeep Kaur were brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Roberta Lilliu.

The hosts once again had a couple of chances on penalty corners in the 17th minute but they squandered both with Deepika Thakur finding Magdalena Casale Gonzales` foot first, while skipper Asunta Lakra also failing to penetrate the Italian defence.

India made numerous forays into the rival camp but the lack of co-ordination and their failure to finish things let them down.