An impressive Indian women's hockey team on Sunday won the FIH Women's Series Finals Hiroshima 2019 after defeating hosts Japan 3-1 in the Final held here at the Hiroshima Hockey Stadium.
The Indian team was helped by an early goal from Captain Rani in the 3rd minute, but conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute as Japan's Kanon Mori scored. A brace from Gurjit Kaur scored in the 45th and 60th minutes, however, saw India register an emphatic victory.
The World No. 9 Indian team had already qualified for the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2019 on Saturday after securing a place in the final of the competition.
A fantastic start to the first quarter for India saw them take the lead in only the 3rd minute as Rani stepped up to score from her team's first penalty corner (PC). The Indian skipper struck the ball sweetly along the ground and beat Japanese goalkeeper Akio Tanaka on her right side to give India a 1-0 advantage.
Indian Women's Hockey team celebrates after defeating hosts Japan 3-1 during the Final of the FIH Women's Series Finals, in Hiroshima on June 23, 2019.
India's dominance saw them win their second PC in the 9th minute, but the team gave a foul away in the execution. Japan were unable to create opportunities for themselves as they could only manage two circle entries in the entire first 15 minutes.
The second quarter also saw India maintain possession but forward Vandana Katariya misses a glorious opportunity in the 18th minute. Picking up a loose clearance from just outside the striking circle, she ran into it to take a strike, but her shot went just wide of the post across the goal.
Japan, on the other hand, also started to get into their rhythm, and tried to create chances by using the flanks, but India's defensive cohesion made sure that they did not succeed.
India controlled ball possession well as they made five circle entries compared to Japan's zero. The likes of Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam and Lilima Minz stepped up to help break Japanese attacks, and rotated the ball comfortably to create opportunities for India.
However, a better performance by the Japanese defence in the final few minutes of the second quarter meant that both the teams went into the half-time break level at 1-1.
India's Women Hockey Captain Rani Rampal in action during the Final of the FIH Women's Series Finals between India and Japan, in Hiroshima on June 23, 2019.
India stepped up their attacks again in the opening minutes of the third quarter winning two PCs, but could not convert them into goals. Both the teams tried to look to take the important lead, with Japan making two circle entries and getting two shots away, while India made eight entries and took five shots.
However, the last of those five shots was the one which gave India the lead as constant pressure on the Japanese in the latter stages of the third quarter saw India win another PC through Rani.
It was drag-flicker Gurjit who was India's saviour yet again as she dispatched the ball into the top left corner of the Japanese goal to give her side a 2-1 lead in the 45th minute.
India managed the fourth quarter well as they maintained possession in the initial minutes with Navneet Kaur and Rani having opportunities to seal the victory with a third goal but their efforts were kept out by the Japanese goalkeeper.
India's Hockey player Gurjit Kaur in action during the Final of the FIH Women's Series Finals between India and Japan, in Hiroshima on June 23, 2019.
But on the other side of the field, India defended well from a PC to avoid conceding an equalizer.
With just five minutes remaining in the match, Japan decided to take off their goalkeeper for an extra outfield player, and that helped them in creating some opportunities. However, it also worked against them in the last minute of the match as Gurjit, the top scorer of the tournament, scored her second goal of the match through a PC to make it 3-1 and wrap up the victory for India.