New Delhi: Indian women improved their chances of qualifying for the London Olympics as they registered their second win of the hockey qualifiers on Tuesday by beating a lowly Poland 3-0.
Though India failed to convert the two penalty corners they got, the forwards looked in full flow, handing Poland their third straight loss of the tournament. Ritu Rani opened India's account in the 14th minute, with Rani Rampal and Poonam Rani consolidating the lead in the 36th and 62nd minute of the match.
Poland's strategy of crowding the Indian forwards in the opening exchanges induced a few mistakes in the striking circle. The deadlock was broken by a crafty one-two between Poonam Rani and Ritu Rani in the 14th minute of the game, with the final pass selling a dummy to Polish goalkeeper and leaving Ritu with a simple tap into the open goal.
The remaining 21 minutes of the first half saw India creating many chances but they could neither score nor create a penalty corner (PC). During that period, Poland didn't play badly either, just that they kept losing possession just before entering India's 25-yard line.
India got a cushion in the opening minute of second half through Rani Rampal's solo effort from the right of Poland's baseline. She beat three defenders before lifting the ball over the goal-line to trigger celebrations. India were all over Poland in the next 10 minutes, creating two PCs but failing to convert those into goals.
Poland then secured three back-to-back PCs in the 46th minute, but some shoddy planning, faulty stopping and an alert Yogita Bali in the Indian goal kept them from scoring.
India's third goal came in the 62nd minute through Poonam Rani. Deepika curved in from the left of Polish baseline before foxing two defenders to pass the ball to Poonam who did the finishing job.
Poland got one last chance of pulling a goal back in the 70th minute, when the umpire awarded them with their fifth PC of the match. However, there was no gas left in the Polish tank by then as the attempt was easily thwarted by an alert Indian defence.
India now have seven points from three games, which is the same as South Africa. However, a goal difference of +6 gives India an edge over the South African team (+3).
In other matches in the womens section of the qualifiers on Tuesday, South Africa were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy while Ukraine thumped Canada 5-2.
India will next play South Africa on Wednesday, with the winner to go clear on top of the standings.