Sports India Wins Cup

The Indian women's hockey team arrive at the airport in New Delhi Nov. 6, 2017. India beat China to win the women's Asia Cup hockey title. The team now qualifies for the Hockey World Cup. (IANS photo)

KAKAMIGAHARA — India created history as they edged past China 5-4 via shootouts to win the women's Asia Cup hockey title here Nov. 5.

With this, India also qualified for next year's World Cup as Continental Champions.

It was skipper Rani who scored the winning goal for India while Savita made a great save in sudden death to ensure India the 5-4 score in the penalty shootout. 

Earlier, it was Navjot Kaur who scored India's lone goal in the 25th minute. It was in 2004 when the Indian Women's Team lifted the Asia Cup after beating Japan 1-0 in the final. 

It was advantage China right at the start as a stick check in the circle saw India concede a penalty corner in only the second minute of the game. 

However, Savita was at her usual best to pad it away while an alert Deep Grace cleared the ball. 

Soon after, the Indian forwards launched a swift attack with Navneet Kaur and Vandana working in tandem to find space in the Chinese defense but an attentive Wang Na averted the danger. 

China, meanwhile, won its second penalty corner but Savita was spot on yet again to pad away Meiyu Liang's flick. 

With the first quarter ending in a stalemate, India came back looking determined to find a breakthrough. 

The Indian forwards kept the pressure on China as they made brave forays into the striking circle. 

Navjot Kaur came close to converting a field goal in the 17th minute but her diving effort was blocked even as skipper Rani made a quick attempt to find a deflection. 

It was not until the 25th minute when India found its first breakthrough when Navneet Kaur and Rani played give-and-take before penetrating the circle only to assist Navjot Kaur who took a clear shot on goal. 

It was a much-needed 1-0 lead for India. Though China launched a counter attack soon after, the Indian defenders were up to the task in denying them success. 

India began the third quarter rather positively as the team persisted with an aggressive attack. 

India dominated ball possession with accurate passing, rotating the ball and testing China's patience. Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz showcased good dribbling skills to steer past the Chinese defenders but a second goal was not to come by even as the clock ticked away to the third hooter. 

On China's part, they stayed disciplined in their defense to deny India a chance to score through a penalty corner. 

The final quarter was tense as China won a penalty corner through a successful video referral in the 47th minute. 

Tiantian Luo kept low as she improvised from the injection to find the right corner of the post, scoring a sensational equalizer for China. 

The following minutes saw both teams play at par with each other, neither allowing the other to stay in control. 

With nine minutes left for the final hooter, India upped the attack desperately attempting to find a gap in the 15-yard mark but the Chinese defenders were resolute in not allowing any room for error. 

Meanwhile, China won its fourth penalty corner of the match with a little less than three minutes to go for the final whistle. 

But it was brilliantly saved by rusher Sunita Lakra and almost immediately, India launched a counter attack but only to send the ball wide off the target and complete the full-time in a stalemate resulting in a shootout. 

In the penalty shootout Rani scored twice while Monica, Lilima Minz and Navjot scored a goal each to ensure India reclaimed the Asia Cup title after 13 years. 

Savita was adjudged Goalkeeper of the Tournament while Monica won the Woman of the Match award. 

After the Indian women won the women's Asia Cup hockey title stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher and Anil Kapoor expressed their joy on Twitter.

Here's what the celebrities tweeted: 

Amitabh Bachchan: “India beats China in Asia Cup Hockey and become champion. Congratulations! you make us so proud!”

Anupam Kher: “Congratulations. Blue is beautiful. Jai Ho. Indian women's hockey team wins Asia Cup after 13 years.”

Anil Kapoor: “National game, national pride... Kudos to our girls for winning the Asia Cup 2017! Immensely proud!”

Adnan Sami: “Congratulations to our hockey team on winning the women's Asia Cup2017. Proud.”

Shilpa Shetty: “Congratulations to the Women's Hockey team. You go girls. So proud Women’s hockey. Proud Moment.”

Yami Gautam: “Pride, achievement, honor. Our Indian Hockey Women team defined it for us.”

On Nov. 6 Hockey India announced a cash award of Rs. one lakh each to the victorious 18-member women's team and chief coach Harendra Singh for guiding the squad to lift the Asia Cup and qualify for next year's World Cup in England.

HI also announced Rs. 50,000 each for the support staff who were part of winning team that beat China in the nail-biting final.

"This is truly a commendable achievement by the Indian women's team bringing back the Asia Cup after 13 years. They have shown great spirit and determination to win this tournament and have rightfully qualified for the World Cup next year as Continental Champions," HI Secretary General Md. Mushtaque Ahmad said in a statement.

"Hockey India congratulates captain Rani and the entire team, including the support staff and coaching staff for this victory. We are extremely proud of this win and wish them the very best for future tournaments," he added.

India showcased incredible form throughout the tournament, winning all its Pool stage matches against Singapore, China, Malaysia before beating Kazakhstan and defending champions Japan in the knock-outs. 

The team scored a total of 28 goals and conceded only five goals in the entire tournament, proving their domination right from the first match where they beat Singapore 10-0. 

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