Jakarta: Skipper Rani Rampal scored a hat-trick as title contenders India outplayed Thailand 5-0 to storm into the semifinals of the women’s hockey competition at the Asian Games here Monday.
After a barren and action-less first two quarters, the Indians got into the groove and scored five goals after the change of ends through Rani (37th, 46th and 56th minutes), Monika (52nd) and Navjot Kaur (55th) to register their fourth consecutive win.
With an unbeaten record under their belt, the Indian eves topped Pool B with 12 points from four wins ahead of defending champions South Korea, who they had defeated 4-1 in their penultimate pool encounter.
In both the first and second quarters, the Thai players tried to keep possession of the ball for long. They played passes between them frustrating the Indians. Also they implemented a defensive formation with at times nine women guarding the goal.
In spite of such a situation, Rani had an opportunity to put India ahead in the fifth minute, but her reverse hit went wide.
In the second quarter the brilliance of Thai goalkeeper Alisa Narueangram prevented India from going ahead as she thwarted both Rani and Vandana Katariya.
Rani turned to provide for Lalremsiami in the 23rd minute but latter failed to connect with a simple tap in. In the 25th minute, India won their second penalty corner and it was Rani who took the shot but was once again denied by the Thai custodian.
The Indians came out all guns blazing in the third quarter and went on the offensive. They earned two penalty corners quickly, but on both occasions, Alisa made saves off Gurjit Kaur.
India’s consistent pressure bore fruit in the 37th minute when Rani scored from a rebound after Udita’s initial try was saved by Alisa. That opened the floodgates.
Early into the fourth quarter, Rani once again found herself at the right place at the right time to stroke home from another rebound to double India’s lead. From there on, it was India all over and they struck thrice in the last 10 minutes.
First Monika scored from a rebound after Deep’s try from a penalty corner was denied by Alisa. Then Navjot and Rani scored two beautiful field goals to seal the match for India.