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Indian women win Shastri hockey
December 05, 2007 20:09 IST
Last Updated: December 05, 2007 20:37 IST
India rode on Saba Anjum's solitary goal to beat Azerbaijan and win the Lal Bahadur Shastri four-nation women's hockey tournament in Delhi on Wednesday.
In the keenly-fought final at the Shivaji Stadium, the Indian skipper scored from a penalty-corner in the 51st minute to script a 1-0 victory for the hosts.
No 13 ranked India, who were favourites, had a disappointing start to the tournament as they lacked in coordination and finishing skills and drew their first game to a lowly-ranked Malaysia. However, they gradually showed improvement and recorded an encouraging title win in the run-up to the Olympic qualifiers.
Earlier in the day, Italy [Images] defeated Malaysia 1-0 to grab the third spot in the tournament.
In extra time, Julieta Obrist struck the winner for the European team after both sides could not achieve any breakthrough in regulation time.
The final was a battle of equals with both the teams challenging each other right from the start.
India were unlucky not to take the lead in the early minutes as Subhadra Pradhan's hit off a Mamta pass missed the target narrowly.
Azerbaijan stepped up attack and earned a couple of penalty-corners in a spell of three minutes, but the Indians fended off the threat and took the battle to the rivals' camp.
In the 25th minute, the hosts got a penalty-corner but it was cancelled following protests by Azerbaijan players.
The next minute saw India earn another penalty-corner, but it did not prove beneficial.
Winger Saba Anjum kept the Azerbaijan players on their toes with her speed and skillful dodging. She had an opportunity to score a spectacular goal just after the break but her shot at goal from a melee missed the post.
A second penalty-corner too proved futile for India, but the next one brought cheer as Anjum shot home off a variation to seal Azerbaijan's fate.
Backed by the boisterous crowd, the experienced combine of Anjum and Mamta created another beautiful move only to be thwarted by the opponents' custodian.
With the clock ticking fast, Azerbaijan made several desperate moves with striker Myungsoon Mammadova leading the charge.
Mammadova had at least two good chances to draw parity for her side, but a rock-solid Indian goalkeeper Dipika Murty prevented any damage.
With extraordinary reflexes, Dipika first kicked away a shot from close quarter and then moved to her right to stop another attempt by the forward.
In the closing minutes, India got a chance to extend the lead but Ritu Rani's hit from top of the circle went over the post.
Hailing the Indian team's effort, coach G S Bhangu, however, admitted that the young players could not handle the situation well towards the end which provided the opponents a few chances.
"We played well except the last 15 minutes when they tried hard for the equaliser. Our young players could not handle the pressure and made a few mistakes in the midfield," he said.