India‘s Goalkeeper Savita Punia and Forward Rani Rampal played crucial roles in their spirited comeback against Italy in 5th-8th classification match at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Italy scored early in the match to take lead in 9th minute, later Rani Rampal scored equalizer in early second half to force the shoot-out. In the shoot-out, Indian Goalkeeper Savita Punia saved first sudden death attempt while Rani scored her both the attempt to take India to 5th place play-off, where India will face the winner of the match between Belgium and Japan.
The first quarter produced was full of action as both the teams struggled to splinter the defence of the other team. Just minutes into the game, India showcased good counter-attacking skills as Vandana swiftly passed the ball to Rani which was brilliantly deflected by the Italian goalie. To open Italy’s account, the Italian girls took an early initiative when Elisabetta Pacella seized the long ball inside the circle and hit a rebound shot in the 9th minute and helped her team take a 1-0 lead. While the Indian team displayed a good series of attack, they were unable to capitalize any scoring opportunity which ended the first quarter on 1-0 with Italy on the lead.
In the second quarter of the game, India took control of the possession and circle penetrations for the major part of the game and made several forays into Italy’s half whose defence held firm. India was awarded with a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the quarter where Lilima Minz moved forward to the base line but Italian goalie denied the Indian striker who was unable to control the ball and finally wasted the penalty corner. As both the teams played the game aggressively and kept the pressure alive, none of the team members were able to seize the opportunity and the score remained in favour of Italy 1-0 at the end of first half.
Getting underway to the third quarter, the game became more intense as India struggled for a much-needed equalizer. It was in the 33rd minute of the game when Rani applied a right technique by engaging the goal keeper and hit the goal post from the right flank levelling the scores to 1-1. India got a chance to break the deadlock when Lilima Minz gave a quick pass to Navjot Kaur who tried to pierce the opponent’s defence but the Italian goalkeeper did well to block an opportunistic hit by the Indian girls and the ball went wide. By the end of the third quarter, the scores were levelled at 1-1.
In the last quarter of the game, while both the teams tried creating chances into each other’s D, the Indian eves switched on its attacking mode and maintained its dominance in the match. A high- pressure environment was built for Italy as they were looking to seize more opportunities to break down the Indian defence. While both the teams levelled the scores at 1-1, the match eventually went to penalty shoot-out phase.
India will contest for the 5th/6th position on 4th July 2015 at 1630 HRS IST. The matches will be telecasted LIVE on Star Sports.