Udita Duhan capped her milestone 100th international appearance with a double strike that took India closer to a Paris ticket after hosts thrashed Italy 5-1 to enter the semi-final of the FIH Olympic Qualifier on Tuesday. Udita (1st minute, 55th), Deepika (41st), Salima Tete (45th) and Navneet Kaur (53rd) were the goal scorers for Indian team as it finished second in Pool B with two wins from three games behind United States, who remained unbeaten. India will take on Pool A toppers Germany in the semifinals on Thursday, while USA will be up against Japan. The top three teams will qualify for the Paris Olympics.
It was yet another good show by the Indians after the 0-1 loss to USA in their opener as they controlled the flow of the match from start to finish.
Udita was rock solid at the back, while diminutive Neha Goyal and Salima controlled the proceedings in the mid-field.
It was a perfect start for India as just like their previous match, the hosts took the lead in the first minute.
India continued from where they left and played high-press, attacking hockey from the onset.
Seconds into the match, Sangita Kumari forced Italy goalkeeper Lucia Ines Caruso to effect a fine save.
Sangita’s reverse hit from top of the circle was padded away by a full-stretched Caruso but from the resultant attack India secured their first penalty corner.
And Udita was bang on target with a perfectly-executed slap shot to hand the hosts an early lead.
Italy had a chance to draw level when they were awarded their first penalty corner just 50 seconds from the end of the first quarter but in turn, it was India who got a shot at the goal from a counter.
Sonika made brilliant run from the left and dribbled past a few defenders to pass the ball to Beauty Dung Dung, whose effort from close range was kept out by Caruso.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Sangita earned India’s second penalty corner, but this time Udita’s was kept at bay by the Italian defence.
The Indian defenders had another good day in office as they didn’t put a foot wrong to deny Italy any open chance.
The back-line led by captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia was flawless in the first two quarters, cutting out any loose balls inside their own striking circle as the Italians failed to get a clear shot at the goal.
Three minutes after the change of ends, Salima Tete and Lalremsiami combined well from the right flank to set up a beautiful ball for Jyoti inside the circle, who failed to get a good connection.
Soon India secured their third penalty corner but Monika failed to stop Salima’s push.
Lurking in front of the Italian circle, an opportunistic Lalremsiami pounced on a loose ball to earn a penalty stroke for India after she was brought down by goalkeeper Caruso.
Deepika stood up and made no mistake from the spot to hand India a 2-0 lead.
Salima extended the lead just 50 seconds from the third quarter, slotting into the top of the Italian net from the right corner past Caruso. Seven minutes from the final hooter, Navneet made the scoreline 4-0 and effectively dashed Italian hopes of a recovery.
She did the spadework past five Italian defenders cutting in from the right flank for an opportunistic strike.
Minutes later, Italy secured back-to-back penalty corners but couldn’t get past Savita in front of the Indian goal.
Udita had a great game and she made it memorable by converting another penalty corner two minutes later to help India record a convincing victory.
Italy got a consolation goal just at the stroke of the final hooter when Camila Machin converted a penalty corner.
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