Captain Rani Rampal's clinical strike helped India beat South Africa 1-0 in their final Pool A match to seal their place in the semi-finals of the women's hockey event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, on Tuesday.
India only required a draw to progress to the semis as they had accumulated a tally of six points from three matches before they faced South Africa, who needed to win the match as they could only accumulate four points from their first three games.
But a strong display in defence from the Indian side saw them continue their marvellous run at the Commonwealth Games as skipper Rani scored the only goal of the match in the 47th minute.
The win for India made sure that they qualified for the semis as they second-ranked team in Pool A with nine points from four matches as England finished top with a better goal difference.
The first quarter started with both teams attacking each other by creating opportunities, but neither was able to make the most of their chances. It was South Africa's Jade Mayne who had a great chance to give her team the lead in the 10th minute when she was found herself in space in front of India's goal, but a weak shot saw Indian goalkeeper Savita make a comfortable save.
Two minutes later, India's Vandana Katariya made a darting run inside the striking circle towards the base-line, and slid the ball onto a South African foot to win her team a Penalty Corner. But Rani's shot from the resulting drag-flick was parried by South African Goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande, and the rebound was struck over the cross-bar by Vandana Katariya. In the 13th minute, the South Africans were also awarded a penalty corner but Savita made a save on her right to deny Lisa-Marie Deetlefs.
The second period saw a similar story as both the teams looked to find a break-through. However, it was India who had the better chances as Vandana was involved yet again in attack when she made a quick run on the left flank, and played a one-two with Namita Toppo, only to see her strike being saved by Mbande.
India were constantly putting pressure on their opponents and it was Lalremsiami's turn to shoot as she stole possession and ran towards the goal but her shot was hit over the cross-bar. South Africa tried to make opportunities but could not strike before the half-time whistle as the game remained goal-less.
The third quarter was dominated by the Indian team as they defended well inside the first few minutes after the restart. World No. 14 South Africa were awarded three consecutive penalty corners in the opening two minutes but India's defence and Goalkeeper Savita made sure that they could not score.
Savita made a great reflex save in the 32nd minute from Dirkie Chamberlain's shot to deny South Africa the lead. In the 39th minute, it was India who were awarded a Penalty Corner but Gurjit Kaur's shot thumped into the crossbar which meant India could not score the opening goal. Another opportunity popped up a couple of minutes later but Navjot Kaur could not get her shot away in front of goal after Monika had played the ball in from the left flank.
In the fourth quarter, it was India who started well and were rewarded for keeping their composure as Rani scored in the 47th minute to give her team an important lead. It was Navneet Kaur on the left flank who started the attack as she made a forward run and passed the ball in-field to Vandana Katariya, who in turn played the ball forward towards the centre of the striking circle where skipper Rani found enough space to turn and shoot, leaving the South African goalkeeper clueless.
The South Africans tried to make a comeback into the match and were trying to find openings into the Indian circle, but a strong defensive structure and approach saw India retain their lead, and qualify for the last four.
Four boxers in semis; assured of medals
Indian boxers, Hussamuddin Mohammed (56kg), Amit Panghal (49kg), Naman Tanwar (91kg) and Manoj Kumar (69kg) assured themselves of Commonwealth Games medals after advancing to the semi-finals, in Gold Coast, on Tuesday.
Mohammed dominated right from the start as he registered an easy 5-0 victory against Zambia's Everisto Mulenga in the quarter-final bout.
Manoj Kumar entered the semi-finals with a 4-1 verdict from the judges against Terry Nickolas of Australia.
Amit defeated Scotland's Aqeel Ahmed in a split 4-1 verdict. The 19-year-old Naman, on the other hand, hammered Samoa's Frank Masoe 5-0 in his quarterfinal clash to move into the medal round.
"I didn't expect Ahmed to be this good. He surprised me with his speed and my counter-attack wasn't working at all. The coaches then told me to go all out aggressive which is what got me the results that I wanted," Amit said after his bout.
Chasing a third successive international gold, the 22-year-old from Haryana overcame a rusty start to turn the tables on his opponent.
"This is definitely going to be the biggest medal of my career so far. There is no doubt about that," said the world championships quarter-finalists
Amit had lost the opening round on a majority decision but came back strongly to clinch the bout and a spot in the semifinals in his maiden appearance at a multi-sport event.
He had won gold medals at the India Open and the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Bulgaria before coming into the Games.
Naman is a former bronze-medallist from the youth world championships and defeated Asian silver-medallist Sumit Sangwan in the national trial to clinch a spot in the team.
The Delhi-boxer took to boxing to lose weight. He will be up against Australia's Jason Whateley in his semifinal clash on Friday.
Earlier, M C Mary Kom (48kg) had assured herself of a medal at the event, winning her opening round clash.
India thrash Pakistan in squash group stage
Defending champions Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal shrugged off the opening game lapse to thrash Pakistan 2-1 in their opening group stage matches.
In the first match of the day, the 2014 winners beat Pakistan's Fazia Zafar and Madina Zafar 10-11, 11-0, 11-1.
The third seed Indian pair wrapped the match in just 22 minutes. They will next play Tesni Evans and Deon Saffery of Wales on Wednesday.
Both Chinappa and Pallikal have exited from the singles competition.
In Group E of the mixed doubles draw, Pallikal and Saurav Ghosal cruised past the Guyanese pairing of Mary Fung-A-Fat and Jason-Ray Khalil 11-3, 11-3.
The fifth-seeded Indian duo then outplayed arch-rivals Pakistan's Madina Zafar and Tayyab Aslam 11-2, 11-3.
"Given world political situation, people get a little bit more excited. But for us it is about being objective and understanding what we need to do against whoever we play," Ghosal said after the win.
Asked about the unceremonious resignation of Egyptian coach Achraf El Karargui before the CWG games Pallikal said: "We play at a professional standard and we travel enough without a coach. We handled the situation well. It's not the best scenario to have lost the Indian coach but I think we have all come into the Games as a team".
Meanwhile, in Group H the eighth seed pairing of Chinappa and Harinder Pal Sandhu hardly lost any sweat to outclass Cayman Islands' Caroline Laing and Jacob Kelly 11-3, 11-6 in merely 13 minutes.
Shooter Sidhu wins GOLD
Heena Sidhu won gold in the women’s 25 metre Pistol, staving off a stiff challenge from Australia’s Elina Galiabovitch in the final, at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.
Alia Sazana Azahari of Malaysia won bronze.
The Indian ace, who had to settle for silver in the women’s 10m air pistol event -- won by compatriot Manu Bhaker -- hit the bull’s eye with her first two shots in the five-shot final before missing the third.
But that hardly mattered, as she was on target in the next two and the Australian, who won bronze in the 10m air pistol, missed the target on her first and fifth shots.
Sidhu's final score of 38 is a Commonwealth Games record.
Galiabovitch scored 35 while Azahari 26.
India's other participant in the event Annu Raj Singh finished sixth with a score of 15.She was the third shooter to be eliminated in the final round.
This is Sidhu's second medal at the 21st Games, having claimed the silver in the 10m air pistol event behind 16-year-old compatriot Manu Bhaker.
Earlier, defending silver-medallist Gagan Narang signed off a disappointing seventh while debutant Chain Singh finished fourth in the 50m rifle prone event at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
Narang, who qualified third for the final with a score of 619.4, went out after the first stage of elimination.
Anas misses 400m bronze by whisker, Hima qualifies for final
Muhammad Anas shattered the national record for a third time but missed out on a 400m men's medal while Hima Das qualified for the women's final in the same event with a personal best on a bitter-sweet day for Indian track and field athletes.
"I am proud of myself," declared a panting Anas after clocking a personal best of 45.31sec to finish fourth in the race, improving his personal best by 0.01 second.
It was first time that an Indian was competing in the 400m final at the CWG since the legendary Milkha Singh in 1958.
However, Anas' effort was not enough for a medal, falling short by just 0.2 seconds, finishing behind winner Isaac Makwala (44.35), Baboloki Thebe (45.09) and Javon Francis (45.11).
"The rain affected my rhythm because the track became heavy and took more effort out of me. The track was spongy. It's hard on the hamstring. It was cold as well which makes the body stiff," Anas said
"But I have got the confidence that I can do much better at this level. My body tightened up a bit today. I expected to come third but it's alright I am glad with what I managed. I will now prepare for the Asian Games," he added.
"I will just go and sleep now because in the last semifinal I gave my everything."
In the women's 400m women's semi-finals, the 18-year-old Hima qualified for the final with a personal best of 51.53.
She had finished third in her semifinal, taking off 0.44 off her previous personal best, but eventually made the cut as the seventh fastest among eight finalists.
Das had stunned everyone by qualifying for the CWG and the imposing runner has continued a good run.