Indian women’s hockey team wins HWL Round 2

New Delhi: The Indian women’s hockey team defeated Poland 3-1 in the final to emerge Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 champions at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Sunday.

India scored through Vandana Katariya (15th minute), Rani Rampal (44th) and skipper Ritu Rani (59th), while Poland got their goal from Oriana Walasek (17th).

With this win, India qualified to the HWL Round 3. If they finish within top six in the Round 3, they will qualify for Rio Olympic Games 2016. Poland also advanced to HWL Round 3.

The determined India attacked from the beginning to exert early pressure on the opponents. Just four minutes into the game, India were awarded a penalty corner but they failed to make the most out of it.

Two minutes later, Rani hit at the circle where Anupa Barla was waiting for the touch but the Polish goalkeeper was quick to avert the danger. Five minutes left in the first quarter, India had another shot at the penalty corner but Poland goalkeeper cleared the danger easily.

Seconds left for the first quarter to end, India finally struck when a beautiful backhand strike from Katariya left no chance for the Poland goalkeeper to make it 1-0.

Poland equalised in the 17th minute as they attacked and got a penalty corner that was converted with a variation strategy by Walasek.

With the game tied at 1-1, both the teams tested each others defence in the third quarter. Four minutes left for the end of the third session, Poland were awarded a penalty corner. But Natalia Wisniewska hit the side post.

It was the Indian eves who broke the deadlock through a field goal from Rani, who was named Young Player of the Tournament, in the 44th minute.

Half way into the fourth quarter, Poland got another shot at the penalty corner and an opportunity to level the score but danger was averted by the Indian defence.

India counter-attacked immediately and Ritu Rani scored in the 59th minute taking the score to 3-1 and going on to register the teams sixth consecutive win in the tournament.

Hockey India high performance director Roelant Oltmans said: “In the first quarter we played astounding hockey. The way Rani scored her goal was brilliant and not everyday someone scores a goal like that.

“We had pressure on us in the third quarter but we came back strong. The team has a very good understanding on the field and they did a great job today.”

Poland’s fantastic contribution to the tournament was recognised in the individual awards, with team captain Marlena Rybacha being named Player of the Tournament while Marta Kucharska was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

Malaysia emerged victorious in the battle for third place with a 3-0 victory over Thailand. Norazlin Sumantri opened the scoring in the 11th minute before the brilliant Fazilla Sylvester Silin, unquestionably one of the stars of the tournament, bagged two penalty corners to put the result beyond all doubt.

Earlier in the day, Russia ended their tournament on a high with a comprehensive win against Kazakhstan to take fifth place while Ghana claimed seventh with a narrow triumph over Singapore.