India women’s hockey team beats Japan 3-1 to win FIH Series Finals, PM Modi congratulates Rani Rampal-led side

Avinash Sharma

Hiroshima, June 23: Continuing their brilliant run India women's team clinched the women's FIH Series Finals hockey tournament by beating hosts Japan 3-1 in the summit clash here at Hiroshima on Sunday (June 23).

The Indian women eked put a hard fought win over the Asian champions at the Hiroshima Hockey Stadium. Captain Rani Rampal gave India the lead in the 3rd minute before drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur struck twice (45th and 60th minutes) late in the match to set up the win. Kanon Mori scored the lone goal for Japan in the 11th minute.

India head coach Sjoerd Marijne, said after win, "It was a tough match, we are happy with the 500 points, we came here with a mission for the 500 points, it gave us the opportunity to play home (...) I think we have defended very well and we can play fast combination hockey and we have a really good drag flick."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju joined Twitter to congratulate Indian girls for putting up a remarkable show in Japan where they also qualified for Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifiers after entering the finals of the tournament.

"Exceptional game, excellent outcome! Congratulations to our team for winning the Women's FIH Series Finals hockey tournament. This stupendous victory will further popularise hockey and also inspire many young girls to excel in the sport," tweeted PM Modi.

Both teams began at a fast pace but it was India who took the lead when captain Rani converted their first penalty corner. Japan remained calm and replied 10 minutes later.

The ball was intercepted in the centre of the pitch and Mori Kanon was on hand to equalise for her side as she dribbled into the circle and wrong-footed the Indian goalkeeper.

In the second quarter, India created a great chance to score but a speculative shot flew wide. Japan were working hard to keep possession but couldn't find a way past the Indian defence.

The second half was much the same as both evenly matched teams attempted to find a way to score a decisive goal. Both teams created half chances but this was a battle between two disciplined defensive teams. Eventually it was Gurjit Kaur who gave India the lead after she fired a missile of a shot into the Japanese goal.

It got very heated in the final quarter as Japan sought to equalise as quickly as possible. India, for their part, counter-attacked well and won a number of penalty corners - none of which they converted.

Eventually, Head Coach Anthony Farry removed the Japan goalkeeper in an effort to create a player advantage. Japan threw everything into scoring the equaliser but India were not budging.

As Japan pushed and pushed, gaps appeared in the defence and India were able to capitalise. They won another penalty corner and Gurjit Kaur didn't miss, putting the game well out of Japan's reach.

Japan head coach Anthony Farry said, "The girls kept going until the end, created some good chances maybe couple of things didn't fall out well and that's the beauty of sport I guess. Disappointing but we'll come back stronger from this performance."

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